Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN06_05a_P: Unravelling the Political Economy of Technocracy and Expertise
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Johannes Jäger, University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
Location: PC.3.15
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 3.

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Lay practices of research to the study of technocracy in the EU

Gerardo Costabile Nicoletta

University of Naples Federico II, Italy

In the midst of the European financial crisis, experts from international organizations have appeared in the political discourse as the only subjectivities capable of disciplining the attitudes of governments and citizens. Holders of expertise, an abstract quality, experts are often seen as the instrumental assets of government policies, private and public organizations, and are generally considered the actual pivot of global governance. Given that non-accountable functionaries act as agenda-setters, some scholars, both critical and not, have suggested that the European Union and other international institutions are essentially technocratic. However, technocracy remains an empty sign lacking political and social significance. Contextualizing technocratic experiences in broader socio-historical processes helps avoid normative narratives usually separated in different disciplinary domains, whereby all that which is technical is closed in a black box only highly specialized scholars are able to uncover. The analysis of expertise as the basis for the legitimization of technocracy must start with those who are excluded: lay people. The creation of expertise in the socio-historical dynamics of European capitalism shows how expertise works as as a powerful device for creative strategies of production and reproduction of dominant social and technical division of labour, producing each time their own specific subjectivities. Post-disciplinary and counter-reflexive attitudes, radical agency-centrism and socio-historical contextualization as well as genealogical obstinacy, compose a theoretical framework through which overcome the limits of research practices which assume meta-historical and meta-theoretical axioms mainly based on the naturalization of social and technical division of labour, as well as asymmetrical (geo)political relations.

Querying the Neoliberalism of Authoritarian Neoliberalism: Managerialism and European Economic Governance

Ian Alexander Lovering

Univeristy of Sussex, United Kingdom

The punitive and invasive nature of European responses to the sovereign debt crisis has signalled for many a growing ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’. Indeed, punishing Eurozone bailout programmes and tightened deficit spending rules strongly suggests an authoritarian turn in European governance. However, this paper argues that the connection of this authoritarian turn to neoliberalism is less than straightforward. Shifts in European economic governance arguably go beyond the specific form of state intervention envisaged by neo/ordoliberal theory, which focuses on extending a principle of competition. 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 concept of ‘managerialism’ provides a novel perspective on the authoritarian turn in European governance. Despite being typically reduced to the ‘technical’ side of neoliberalism, managerialism possesses a distinct historical lineage, stemming from the US military, and philosophical basis, as a decision-making science. Managerialism’s connection with the growth of executive power and use of monitoring techniques makes it pertinent to recent authoritarian shifts in governance, without relying on neoliberalism as a system of knowledge. Following a critical review of approaches which seek to connect neoliberalism and authoritarianism, the paper applies a concept of managerialism to a case central to ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’: Eurozone governance.

After Orthodoxy: The role of economic expert discourse in the European political economy

Jens Maesse

Giessen, Germany

This paper studies the discursive logic of economic expert discourses and its impact on the cultural political economy of Europe. Whereas critics of neoliberal globalization study the role and influence of orthodox economics, this project will take into account the political-economic role of a certain form of economic expertise, which does not fit into the categories of “economic orthodoxy” or “economic heterodoxy” either. “After orthodoxy” refers to a new realm of economic knowledge, between academia and economic policy. This sort of economic expertise is characterised by a pragmatic attitude towards economic policy and draws on neo-Keynesian debates and post-neoclassical microeconomics. By analysing how economic expertise is presented by expert discourses, perceived by different audiences and contributes to the formation of political economic relations, this paper provides insights into a highly important realm of knowledge. This paper applies new theories from post-structuralism and discourse theory and will combine approaches from discourse linguistics with sociological concepts of power, institutions, professions and social structure. In order to show how the process of the trans-epistemic construction of economic experts operates, this paper will present the research agenda of a Discursive Political Economy of Economics (DPEE). Drawing on examples for illustration from European austerity expertise, a discourse analyses will complement the methodological reflections.

Hegemony and Power: Perceiving Rationality in an era of transitions



Political economy thought has faced a significant period of ‘anomalies’ characterized by lack of hegemonic paradigm in the aftermath of 2008 crisis. In that specter, a new strategy of capital emerged, revolving around a new moral and ethical binding of the subjects, dominated by fear and punishment. The scope of this paper is to question the formulation of economic and political subjectivities and collective identities, by pointing out the critical dimension of the “lived experience”. Habitually, human behavior was perceived in terms of mere economic action giving way to ‘homo economicus’. Furthermore, neoliberal rationality, sketches aspects of criminalization and moralization of life drawing arguments from the ‘ordo-liberal’ narrative. On the other hand, the legitimization of the new rationality of capital colliding in the unwillingness of ‘people’ to adapt in this new regime. The Freudian ungreivable attachment to what is lost seems to motivate behaviour, making people counter-react to the mismanagement of crisis, and oppression performed by the European elites. Recent political developments seem to shed light into the pursuance of citizenship, welfare state, and the ethical and cultural regime of modernity. In this framework, a crucial question is located into the consideration of the binary nature of collective identities. Notwithstanding current dystopia, this question could be proved more than a simple optimistic assumption in the experimentation and further conceptualization of a new model explaining human behaviour.

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