The Rise of European Competition Policy, 1950-1991: A Cross-Disciplinary Survey of a Contested Policy Sphere
Abstract: Competition policy is perhaps the field in which the European Commission has the most extensive powers. Born institutionally in 1950, European competition policy now has a sixty year-long history. This paper argues that its history has not been peaceful, and that it has been characterized by heated debates. In a first methodological part, an assessment is made of the growing multidisciplinary academic debates relating to this topic. A claim for a methodology combining historical sources (archives) and a focus on the relationship between ideas and institutions. Then the paper turns to an empirical application of the methodology just described. In particular, it examines the history of European competition policy, using new archival findings in three steps: the institutional basis in 1950-62 (part II); the failure of the neo-functionalist momentum in 1962-81 (part III); and the rise of a powerful policy in 1981-91 (part IV).
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