Neoliberalization, fast policy transfer and the management of labor market services

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Neoliberalism has been a core concern for international political economy (IPE) for several decades, but is often ill-defined. Research offering greater definitional clarity stresses the role of contingent and local level factors in diverse processes of neoliberalization. This paper contributes to that literature, addressing a surprising gap in critical IPE knowledge; the management practices by which pressures to activate the unemployed and to make them more competitive, are implemented. The paper suggests that performance management is significant as both a depoliticizing policy coordination mechanism and a highly politicized policy implementation practice. The paper invokes a scalar-relational approach which sees the pressure to innovate and compete at lower scales as driven by the political economy of competitiveness at the system scale. The paper reports on research undertaken within the empirical frame of EU meta-governance, showing how performance management is part of lower-scale attempts to adapt to system-scale pressures. It is neoliberalizing in both form and content. It concludes by showing that while performance management may be a significant component of neoliberalization there is scope for engagement and contestation motivated by egalitarian ideals. Critical IPE scholars interested in contesting neoliberalization should therefore engage with the political economy of management practice as well as policy design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-969
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • workfare
  • active labor market policies
  • fast policy
  • management
  • managerialism
  • Neoliberalization
  • performance management
  • public employment services


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