Market Bureaucracy : Neoliberalism, Competition, and EU State Aid Policy
Abstract: According to a predominant way of thinking, competition is believed to be what drives society forward. It is believed to lead to economic growth through lower prices, higher quality and a more efficient distribution of resources. Competition is also believed to stimulate progress by creating incentives for creativity and innovation. Furthermore, it is commonly associated with values of freedom, by increasing freedom of choice, and justice, by rewarding those who work hard at succeeding. Drawing upon the literature on governmentality, this dissertation investigates this idea of competition as the expression of a neoliberal rationality of government. It shows how this rationality is spread through the European Union’s policy on state aid, which aims to keep the member states from distorting competition on the internal market. From this study, I make two main arguments. The first is that the neoliberal rationality of state aid policy ushers in a new way of reasoning about the role of the state, where the difference between “good” and “bad” forms of government is determined according to what is good or bad for competition. In this way, state aid policy can be seen to function as an “anti politics machine” which turns political questions about the role of the state, into technical problems of competition that can be solved by economic experts.Secondly, this dissertation shows how the neoliberal rationality of government has made it possible for the European Commission to justify its interventions in member state’s policies by claiming to be acting in the general interest of free competition. I argue that, far from leading to less government, the creation of “free markets” gives rise to a particular kind of government, which takes a distinctly bureaucratic form. Through the use of standardised forms, statistical models of evaluation and the collection of quantifiable data, state aid is made visible as an “objective” category of state action, and thereby becomes possible to govern.
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