, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 261-280
Date: 17 Sep 2009

The “Indefinite Discipline” of Competitiveness Benchmarking as a Neoliberal Technology of Government

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Abstract

Working on the assumption that ideas are embedded in socio-technical arrangements which actualize them, this essay sheds light on the way the Open Method of Co-ordination (OMC) achieves the Lisbon strategic goal: “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world”. Rather than framing the issue in utilitarian terms, it focuses attention on quantified indicators, comparable statistics and common targets resulting from the increasing practice of intergovernmental benchmarking, in order to tackle the following questions: how does the OMC go about co-ordinating Member States through the benchmarking of national policies? And to what extent does this managerial device impact the path of European construction? Beyond the ideological and discursive construction of the competitive imperative, this technology of government transforms it into an “indefinite discipline” (Foucault) which constantly urges decision-makers to hit the top of the charts. This contribution thus argues that the practice of intergovernmental benchmarking is far from being neutral in purpose and effect. On the contrary, it lays the foundation for building a “competitive Europe” which unites Member States through competition.