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9 Pages

Introduction

The assumption that competition is good and more competition is even better has reached the status of a mantra among policy-makers, businesspeople and academics alike. Never before in the history of mankind has faith in competition enjoyed such an exalted, almost religious, standing and never before have more dimensions of social reality been immersed with its logic. With the ascendancy of neoliberal doctrines in the 1980s, previously shielded public utility sectors, such as energy, water, transportation, postal services and telecommunications were privatised and exposed to the necessity to compete. The imperative of competitiveness is not only limited to the domain of private companies competing for profi ts and markets however. A sweeping marketisation has embraced ever more public service sectors, ranging from social welfare, health care, housing and increasingly also education. Universities compete for students and funding for research projects, hospitals compete for patients and local townships, cities, regions and even entire countries compete for mobile taxpayers, tourists and corporate investments. At the same time, the unemployed compete for jobs, whilst the employed vie to keep their jobs and further their career opportunities. The vast prominence of disciplinary policy tools, such as performance indexes, scoreboards and benchmarking ‘best practices’ are a tangible manifestation of competition as a totalising and all-pervasive logic. Exposed to continuous comparative evaluation, contemporary capitalist societies have transformed into true competition societies.