My research breaks down into three strands that sometimes overlap.
1. The return of industrial policy: back to the future?
I am currently writing the first chapter in my dissertation, dealing with the return of industrial policy in the European Union. This is not the first time we have seen industrial policy in Europe, but it represents a clear and puzzling departure from the institutional and ideological underpinnings of the single market and EMU. Moreover, the nature of industrial policy has changed in a globalized and digitalized world. Beyond classical policy tools such as subsidies, science policy, and procurement, states use many unorthodox means such as tax treaties and sovereign wealth funds to strengthen their industrial base. Finally, there is a need to clearly conceptualize how industrial policy works (or doesn’t work) in the European Union. Whereas some elements such as competition policy and state aid rules have become EU-level competences, member states still have considerable leeway to conduct their distinct industrial policies. My hunch is that these national varieties of industrial policy again play a role in preferences ‘uploaded’ to the European level. In any case, in the chapter I set out to conceptualize just these things.
2. Weaponizing the EU’s single market?
Both comparative and international political economy are keen research interests of mine. Whereas the configuration of industrial policy as somewhere between discretionary and European policy has more to do with comparative political economy, the role of the ‘other’ (non-European actors) in shaping EU industrial policy should not be underestimated. The increasing volatility, uncertainty, and geopoliticization of the international system since 2016 have invigorated the renewed penchant for industrial policy in Europe. ‘Digital sovereignty’ has recently become an oft-heard ambition of EU leaders. This is not just talk, evidenced by reforms curbing state-backed foreign companies from entering and investing in the single market. Combined with stricter regulation on (U.S.) digital giants, it is clear that EU leaders are willing to weaponize the single market for geopolitical ends. In a future paper, I will explore what is behind this transition and how it is taking shape.
3. The legitimation of social systems
A final research interest concerns the role of ideas in political economy. How do we challenge and legitimize the world around us, and how does legitimation affect the tangible policy outcomes we see? For an earlier project, I looked at the EU’s legitimation of free trade policy in its overall effort to make this policy coherent with social and environmental goals. Even though trade often contradicts these goals, the EU’s coherence discourse successfully legitimizes trade policy by pushing out discussion on its inherently contradictory nature. The project resulted in a peer-reviewed paper that you can find here.