Doctoral Fellow

Doctoral Fellow Zoé Évrard Zoé Evrard

Discipline: Political Science
Supervisor: Jenny Andersson
Enrolled: September 2017

Neoliberalization through Elite Consensus: The Case of Belgium

Less than half a century after the first gathering of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS), in 1947, neoliberalism had turned into “a commonsense of the times” (Peck and Tickell 2002: 381). In most if not all advanced capitalist countries neoliberalisation, i.e., a common trajectory in a neoliberal dimension, could be observed (Hay 2011; Baccaro and Howell 2017). A common neoliberal trajectory does not imply a convergence in institutional form, “a glacial flattening of the institutional landscape to an identical topography” as Baccaro and Howell put it (2017: 15). In fact, depending on the local power relations and constraints set by existing institutions, neoliberalisation happened through different paths and mechanisms across countries, producing differentiated outcomes or varieties of liberalisation (Fourcade-Gourinchas and Babb 2002; Thelen 2014). Besides, it is interesting to note that not only MPS-related, but a vast range of actors contributed to these neoliberalisations, including notoriously left and center-left parties (Mudge 2008).

As a paradoxical result, considering the exponential growth of the literature on neoliberalism since the 1990s (Mirowski 2014; Boas and Gans-Morse 2009), much more work still needs to be done in order to fully understand how, when and why neoliberal ideas spread, became dominant, and were consolidated as such, first, and secondly, how the local and practical translations of neoliberal ideas in public policies have produced multiple patterns or varieties of neoliberalization (Peck and Tickell 2002; Brenner et al. 2010; Campbell and Pedersen 2001). This work seeks to extend the emerging historiography of neoliberalism in a currently under-explored context: Belgium. Why, how and to what extent, could neoliberalism become dominant in the 1980s, and consolidate in the 1990s as the dominant policy paradigm in Belgium, is the question it seeks to answer. Adopting discursive neo-institutionalism as the main theoretical perspective (e.g. Blyth 2002; Hay 2011), a historical approach supported by a process tracing methodology using qualitative data will be followed (i.e., Bennett and Checkel 2014; Collier 2011).

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