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A formulaic approach to a translation process within the EU configuration: the case study of the formula "Services of general interest" (SGI).

Yoann Pupat
Université Lyon II
Yoann Pupat
Université Lyon II
Open Panel

Abstract

The proposal tackles the issue of “European policy change” through a “discursive institutionalism” approach. It focuses on an empirical EU’s transformative experience: the reformulation of the French structural question of “public services” into the question of “services of general interest” (SGI) within the EU configuration. This reformulation stands for the lexical indicator of a broader “translation process”, defined as a displacement of meanings and actors between the French configuration and the EU configuration. By borrowing the notion of “formula” from the French discourse analysis, the proposal then attempts to disentangle the skein of the “discursive practices” engaged by the actors in this translation process. A formula is a frozen and discursive unity that works as an ideological operator in a specific socio-historical context. This notion stands for a methodological tool that considers discourse both in terms of its contents and its sociopolitical uses. The so-called “formulaic approach to translation process” thus consists in crossing some qualities of the “formula” with some key elements of the Actor-network Theory (ANT). This approach considers the formula “services of general interest” as an “inevitable crossing point” of the translation process crystallizing some meaning issues as well as discursive strategies. After having retraced the genesis of the formula, the proposal would draw particular attention to its “concession” constitution. By positing a contradiction that the formula “services of general interest” seems to resolve, this“concessive formula” appears simultaneously as a consensual and a controversial object. Hence, it tends both to neutralize conflictuality by encouraging a technicization of discourses and, inversely, to repoliticize the European debate because of its semantical uncertainty.