Disciplining Europe – The Production of Economic Delinquency

Thomas Biebricher


The main goal of the following article is to offer a Foucaultian reading of the economic governance structure of the European Union after the reforms passed and implemented over the last six years. The starting point is a reconstruction of Foucault’s analytical framework to scrutinize disciplinary power as well as the respective apparatuses and how this framework has been integrated into the more encompassing governmentality perspective. In the second section I provide a brief survey of the strategic terrain of the European Union as a site of multi-level governance that poses unique challenges from a governing perspective. The following sections are structured according to some key characteristics of disciplinary/governmental power arrangements (visibilization, norm(aliz)ation, prevention, normalizing judgement) which I try to identify in the context of the European Semester, the Six-Pack and the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure as elements of a broader disciplinary framework. The final section draws on Foucault’s famous point about the ‘productive failure’ of the prison as a disciplinary apparatus that ends up serving ends and purposes quite distinct from the ones officially declared and suggests that we should also consider the European regime of economic discipline and surveillance as one, which is ‘failing forward’, creating opportunity structures to pursue political projects that may differ markedly from those officially stated.


Discipline; Governmentality; European Union; Sovereign Debt Crisis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22439/fs.v0i0.5342

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