Not So Ordoliberal after All? Public Management and the Transformation of European Governance

    • Lucca November 2017
    • Presentation speakers
      • Ian Alexander Lovering, University of Sussex, UK


    The financial and economic crisis of the Eurozone in recent years triggered punitive and invasive political interventions at a range of governmental levels – from technocratic governments imposed in Italy and Greece, to the mandating of austerity measures via Eurozone bailouts. For critical scholars of integration, this shift in European governance has been seen as a new phase of neoliberalism in the European Union. In particular, the strengthening of debt and deficit rules in EMU has been seen as the intensification of an ‘Ordoliberal’ Europe. In contrast, this paper argues that understanding the practice of European governance through the lens of neo/ordoliberal theory and history is less than straightforward. Shifts in European economic governance arguably go beyond the specific form of state intervention envisaged by neo/ordoliberal theory. The reliance, for example, on data analysis within a supranational economic surveillance regime (i.e. European Semester) contradicts a Hayekian belief in the fallibility of governmental knowledge. Neoliberalism, therefore, arguably provides only a partial explanation for recent governance shifts. In contrast, this paper will argue that a connected, yet distinct, movement of ‘public management’ has played a central role in transforming European governance in recent years. Despite being typically reduced to the ‘technical’ side of neoliberalism, public management possesses a distinct historical lineage, stemming from the US military, and philosophical basis, as a decision-making science. By drawing on the lineage of public management, the paper argues that we should understand the nature of Europe governance today not just as constricting national state action through the deepening of rules (as implied by ordoliberal theory), but rather the reverse: the centralisation of increasingly discretionary power away from established democratic centres and into technocratic and executive bodies.