The influence of ordoliberalism on the development of European competition law as mirrored in European Commission publications (c.1952-2018)

PhD Project

"Modern Ordoliberals ask themselves whether and how economic policy, like Odysseus, can be tied to the ship’s mast in order not to be lured by the sirens’ song."

The historic existence of different schools of competition analysis is well established, ranging from the Harvard School, the Austrian School and the Freiburg School’s Ordoliberalism to the various versions of the Chicago School. What is less clear, however, is these schools’ actual relevance on European policy over the long run. My dissertation aims to address this gap by providing a long-term, quantitative analysis of European competition policy as conducted by the European Commission. The goal is to clarify the influence of different economic doctrines by introducing previously unconsidered source material and an innovative methodology into the scholarly debate.

Four central databases will be constructed that allow the application of text mining methods and network analysis. These databases will cover, respectively, the ordoliberal community, all legal actions of DG Competition, the ‘soft-law’ publications of the European Commission, and the biographies of DG Comp’s employees. To evaluate this wealth of semantic data, the rapidly growing set of text mining techniques can be used. In contrast to the older, widely-used method of measuring influence through citations, these modern big data techniques allow to question the corpus on the role of Ordoliberalism: is there evidence of an ordoliberal influence in the Commission’s publications and, if so, what words, concepts and cases are involved? How does this influence change in relation to ‘external’ factors? Which publications, cases and words stand out and which overall narrative regarding the history of EU competition law can be derived from them?

This project is based on a central methodological conviction: quantitative and qualitative approaches should not be seen as substitutes, but as necessary complements in historical research – together providing a more precise picture of the past. At a time when EU competition policy must adapt to new ‘quasi-monopolists’ in the course of the digital revolution, it is essential to assess the legacy of the ordoliberal tradition with its specific understanding of economic power more precisely.

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