Consolidating neoliberalism: European competition regulation from the 1990s onwards
Capitalist production and accumulation transnationalised at an unprecedented pace throughout the 1990s. This fundamental transformation of the context in which competition rules were enforced took shape through a massive increase of cross-border mergers and intercompany agreements, which in turn were facilitated through various neoliberal forms of regulation. The neoliberal counterproject to the social order of embedded liberalism and concomitantly to centre-left, national and Euro-mercantilist ideas and practices gained the discursive upper hand both in the competition units and in the broader ensembles of regulation in the course of the 1990s. It served to promote the superiority of free market forces and competition-driven mechanisms above state-regulated social and economic organisation. Section one looks into the changes of capitalism and capitalist power relations since the 1990s, whilst section two discusses the consolidation of neoliberalism as a general hegemonic discourse. Section three explains how the neoliberal discourse became hegemonic in the EC competition unit of regulation, while section four and fi ve deal with the Commission’s cartel and state aid prosecution, privatisation directives and merger control. Section six addresses the wider repercussions of EC level neoliberal practices on national level regulatory developments.