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The course, contradictions, and consequences of extending competition as a mode of (meta-)governance: towards a sociology of competition and its limits

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Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Distinktion - Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory
Issue number2
Volume16
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)167-185
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date16/10/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article examines the use of competition as an object and mode of governance. It first considers how competition might become a principle of economic organization and, relatedly, how it may become part of state projects and practices. Second, it comments on the discursive and material dimensions of competition, considering it as a social construct and as a social constraint. Third, it examines the rather idealized representations of competition in the broader doxa of liberalism and neo-liberalism considered in terms of a rough threefold distinction among economic, political, and ideological imaginaries and the limits to the reproduction of these doxa in terms of the complexities of capitalist social relations. Fourth, it explores the complexities of competition in the actually existing world and their role in differential accumulation. In this context it distinguishes neo-classical, Austrian, and Schumpeterian views on competition and entrepreneurship and their contribution to equilibration or creative destruction. Fifth, it considers efforts to steer competition through, inter alia, the competition state and competition law. Sixth, it relates competition to other modes of governance and identifies limits to its role in this regard and introduces ‘meta-governance’ as a response to these limits. Finally, seventh, it comments on the fetishization of competition as a means to subsume society under the dominance of profit-oriented, market-mediated accumulation. It concludes with comments on the limits of competition in relation to fictitious commodities and goods and services that contribute to human flourishing.