Accepted Paper:

Competition and equality or monopoly and privilege: two faces of capitalist accumulation, the case of Southern Europe  
Susana Narotzky (Universitat de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Competition and monopoly are at tension within capitalism. Neoliberal discourse stresses enhancing competition by reducing regulation, while large firms seek privilege deals from regulators. Grassroots responses focus on recuperating regulatory practices, a return to economic nationalism, or projects of an alternative community economy.

Paper long abstract:

Through the analysis of various ethnographies located in Southern Europe, this presentation will address a major tension within the political economy of capitalism. It will approach the seeming contradictions between a model based on competition and supply side economy, and the practices based on producing privilege positions in the market through political maneuvering.

While mainstream neoliberal policy discourse points at enhancing competition, mostly through reducing regulation, actual practice of large firms points to various privilege deals supported by political elites (often branded as corruption). The grassroots responses to this situation focus on recuperating regulatory practices (protection of labor and public services), on a return to an economic nationalism of sorts (protecting the local economy) or on quasi-autarkic projects of an alternative community economy. But this view does not preclude a general belief in the need to push overall productivity (mostly through knowledge and quality enhancement) and thus gain a competitive edge in the market.

The presentation will explore these contradictions.

Panel Plenary B
Contemporary capitalism and unequal society: obscene exchange, complicity and grassroots responses