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Whose knowledge? Whose policy? The European Commission as an Organiser of Policy Knowledge

Monica Clua-Losada
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Monica Clua-Losada
Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Abstract

Public policy analysis remains a rather uncritical affair; the methodological tools available ensure that most approaches fall within rationalist or institutional considerations. Public policy analysis at the European level maintains such dryness, which is in turn, reinforced by the influence of mainstream theories of European integration. This paper aims to develop a historical materialist understanding of the European Commission’s role as an “organiser of policy knowledge”. In order to develop such understanding, two key methodological considerations will be brought to the fore. On the one hand, historical materialism’s concern with critique will be the starting point of the analysis. On the other, the dialectical relation between abstract theorisation and the concrete analysis of specific situations, grounded in their material reality, will be developed. In keeping with the theme of the workshop, this process will be explored in a rather open manner in order to uncover the methodological assumptions of the approach. Historical materialist analysis, as it is understood in this paper, pays particular attention to the historical context as well as the material circumstances within which action develops. It is therefore a must, to ground such analysis within the specificities of a case study, whilst at the same time being able to abstract from it. The case chosen is the European Commission’s failed directives on the liberalisation of port services. This case is of particular interest in terms of the Commission’s role as an organiser of knowledge. That is, not as a producer or “commissioner” of knowledge as could be expected, but as the decider over what is accepted knowledge, when it is accepted and how it can be accepted.