Post-neoliberalism in Europe? How economic discourses have changed through COVID-19 pandemic

Jens Maesse


La pandemia di COVID-19 sta influenzando le società contemporanee in modi complessi ed eterogenee. Questo lavoro si focalizza sull’economia, analizzando le trasformazioni causate dalla crisi pandemica nei discorsi degli esperti economici europei. Il contributo prende le mosse dalla teoria foucaultiana del dispositivo e distingue quattro livelli attraverso i quali il neoliberismo – sfruttando il sistema UE – ha influenzato le società europee negli ultimi decenni: mondo economico, istituzioni, policy network e discorsi . L’interazione tra i quattro livelli sarà analizzata e discussa a partire dall’analisi empirica del livello discorsivo. Prendendo come casi di studio i Country Report del Semestre Europeo 2020 e le Raccomandazioni UE sull’Italia, verranno individuate tre caratteristiche del discorso neoliberista dell’UE: temporalità discorsiva, autorità discorsiva ed ethos discorsivo. L’analisi discorsiva comparata di due documenti pubblicati tra i mesi di marzo e maggio 2020 mostrerà come lo shock esogeno causato dal Corona Virus abbia drasticamente cambiato il discorso degli esperti economici neoliberisti dell’UE. L’articolo prospetta la nascita di una “nuova normalità” nella sfera politica e politico-economica; un “nuova normalità” che potrebbe influenzare le prospettive future dei Paesi europei. 


The COVID-19 pandemic is influencing contemporary societies in complex and multiple ways. This paper focuses on the economy via an analysis of the transformations of European economic expert discourses brought about by the corona crisis in 2020. The contribution starts form Foucault’s theory of dispositif and distinguishes four levels on which neoliberalism was influencing European societies via the EU system in the last decades: the world economy, institutions, policy networks and discourses. While focussing empirically on the discursive level, the interplay of all four levels is discussed and investigated. Taking the example of the European Semester 2020 “Country Reports” and “EU Recommendations” on Italy as case study, three features of these documents characterising EU neoliberal discourse are elaborated: discursive temporality, discursive authority and discursive ethos. A comparative discourse analysis of two documents published between March 2020 and May 2020 shows that corona as external shock has changed EU neoliberal economic expert discourse dramatically. The paper argues that a post-neoliberal “new normality” in the realm of economic policy and politics is emerging that could influence the future outlook of European societies.

Parole chiave

analisi del discorso e del dispositivo; discorso degli esperti eco-nomici; neoliberismo; politica economica dell’UE; economic expert discourse; EU economic policy; discourse and dispositif analysis; neoliberalism

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