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70 Working Paper

New Labour, Globalization, and the Competition State

1999 – Mark Evans


The concept of the Competition State differs from the "Post-Fordist State" of Regulation Theory, which asserts that the contemporary restructuring of the state is aimed at maintaining its generic function of stabilizing the national polity and promoting the domestic economy in the public interest. In contrast, the Competition State focuses on disempowering the state from within with regard to a range of key tasks, roles, and activities, in the face of processes of globalization . The state does not merely adapt to exogenous structural constraints; in addition, domestic political actors take a proactive and preemptive lead in this process through both policy entrepreneurship and the rearticulation of domestic political and social coalitions, on both right and left, as alternatives are incrementally eroded. State intervention itself is aimed at not only adjusting to but also sustaining, promoting, and expanding an open global economy in order to capture its perceived potential benefits for those actors and their changing clienteles. Such strategies,while reinforcing the roles and positions of such actors, also can undermine the generic function of the state seen in terms of traditional conceptions of social justice and the public interest In this context, the New Labour Government in the United Kingdom has adopted a policy agenda which in its most crucial aspects reflects the continuing transformation of the British State into a Competition State - support for market-oriented reforms in international structures of governance, the introduction of embedded financial orthodoxy at home, extension of pro-competitive micro-industrial policies, reform of the constitutional order, the flexibilization of the state apparatus, the creation of a contract-based post­ welfare state, and attempts to spread the discourse of "globalization with a human face."