Europe's neoliberal turn: markets, competition and competitiveness, 1973-mid-1980s


9.30 - 10.00           

Welcome & introduction

Brigitte Leucht and Niklas Olsen, University of Copenhagen

The European Community and Europe’s role in increasingly global markets


DG Industry and their attempts to increase European competitiveness by fostering “European champions”

Arthe van Laer, Université catholique de Louvain


DG Competition and their changing conceptions of the market and competition in the 1970s

Laurent Warlouzet, Université d’Artois and London School of Economics


Lunch break

New European governance structures and market and competition ideas


Competitiveness in European international organizations (including the ERT and the World Economic Forum)

Brigitte Leucht, University of Copenhagen

European states and market and competition-oriented thought


Germany (coordinated market economy)

Ralph Jessen, University of Cologne


Denmark (Scandinavian welfare state)

Niklas Olsen, University of Copenhagen and Jeppe Nevers, University of Southern Denmark



Regarding the larger-scale conference planned for 2014 and the possible research output

Jan Pedersen, University of Copenhagen
Morten Rasmussen, University of Copenhagen

Today, Europe’s competitiveness on world markets is challenged by dynamic new economic powers including China, India and Brazil. This challenge to its global competitiveness is reminiscent of Europe’s initial “shock of the global” (in reference to Ferguson et al 2010) in the aftermath of the oil crisis of 1973 when European economies and businesses faced a variety of economic challenges including increasing competition from the US and Japan, low growth rates, high inflation and rising unemployment.

In this crisis it became apparent that post-World War II European welfare states were ill equipped to protect their citizens against rising inflation and growing unemployment and to counteract budget and state deficits. Neoliberal ideas about the self-regulatory power of markets, synonymous with the policies of the Thatcher government in the UK and the Reagan administration in the US, first flourished and then became internationally spread by the latter part of the 1980s.

This workshop starts with the assumption that widespread concerns about Europe’s competitiveness and the belief in the self-regulatory power of markets were necessary preconditions for legitimizing neoliberal policies at both the European level and within European states from the 1980s onwards but with important repercussions up to the present.

If this assumption is correct it is pivotal to understand where the concerns about the competitiveness of the European economy first originated, how they were conceptualized and disseminated and how they were applied through policy initiatives and policymaking. At the same time it is necessary to outline the limits the attraction of the concepts of the market, competition and competitiveness held. We therefore propose to explore how different politicians, parties and institutions negotiated these key concepts in the aftermath of Europe’s first shock of the global.   

All are welcome but registration is necessary: