Disciplining the Sovereign Periphery of Europe

  • John G. Glenn
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


This chapter argues that the post financial crisis Eurozone is experiencing a transformation away from the more consensual and indirect methods of inculcating neo-liberal norms towards a regime based on surveillance, discipline and punishment. In other words, since the financial crisis, the subjectification process involving self-identification with the European Union and its economic regime has moved to the background. At the same time, the process of ‘othering’ through scientific classification and dividing practices (financially delinquent indebted states vs. the rectitude of financially prudent states) has come to the fore, identifying certain countries as profligate and in need of reform—a process that requires discipline and punishment to ensure compliance with neo-liberal practices.

As Jonathan Joseph has detailed, governmentality in the European Union tended to emphasize an intergovernmental approach that worked through consensus building. There were, of course, associated surveillance techniques, such as, the submission of detailed economic and social data to Eurostats. But just how loosely these techniques of control were employed became rather obvious when, in October 2009, the new Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced that the budget deficit had been under recorded for over a decade. The level of surveillance and nature of disciplinary mechanisms therefore changed radically as the Euro crisis took hold. Eurozone states are now subjected to hierarchical observation, examination and normalizing judgements and, of course, punitive mechanisms in the form of market reactions and fines.

This chapter therefore examines this further deepening of neo-liberal governmentality in the Eurozone and the concomitant shift towards disciplinary mechanisms to ensure this transformation. The first section examines the neo-liberal form of governmentality associated with the open method of coordination initially favoured by the European Union. Because of this emphasis on learning through coordination, cooperation and consensus, the disciplinary mechanisms built into the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) from its very inception, by and large, lay in abeyance. Yet, as the second section outlines, as the consequences of the financial crisis ramified out through Europe, the discipline, surveillance and punishment measures associated with the SGP were fundamentally strengthened. Moreover, this disciplinary mechanism eventually moved to the forefront of Europe’s response to the crisis. The third section argues that this is most clearly seen in the bail-out/bail-in programmes administered by the Troika with their regime of economic discipline, intensive surveillance monitoring compliance and punishment in the form of withdrawal of funds if states fail to comply with the financial rectitude required of them.


European Union Euro-crisis Governmentality Open method of coordination Discipline and punishment Stability and growth pact The Troika 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • John G. Glenn
    • 1
  1. 1.Politics and International RelationsUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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