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Institutional Competitiveness - How Nations came to Compete

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In recent years, the concept of international competitiveness has (re)emerged as a paradigm in public discourse. In this paper I introduce the concept of institutional competitiveness to show how the concept of international competition has been reformulated as part of a political project for initiating economic globalization. It is my intention to show how the concept of institutional competitiveness (CIC) has raised to become important in the last 25 years, moving from a simple conversation among academics into a political discussion with real-world effects. The purpose of the paper is to describe the rise and movement into the realm of practice. The purpose is also to show how the voyage has come to include institutional change as an important policy instrument and the use of institutional analysis as a key utensil for policy makers. It is my claim that discourses and institutions are used with the intention to enhance the competitiveness of nations and enterprises; why discourses and institutions have become a political phenomenon of interest and salience for policy makers and decision takers. It is also my claim that knowledge of institutions is applied to explain economic growth and to assess the potential relevance of institutional reforms; why interpretations of institutions has been become a policy tool for the implementation of globalisation. It is this dual role of discourses and institutions I describe in the following. The whole debate on the CIC will be looked upon as an example of how institutions (as a political phenomenon) and institutional analysis (as a policy tool) have become part of a policy approach. Two caveats are necessary. It is not my ambition to describe the conflicts of interests and the accidents of history involved in moving the process from dawn to mid-day. Neither is it my ambition to explain why the travel has happened in the first place. Even if the process is engulfed in conflicts – at several levels and including multiple interests – I will NOT identify these, nor describe them. The purpose of the paper is only to describe not to explain. The paper will be organised as follows. First, I describe how the concept of national and institutional competitiveness is discussed. In order to describe how the concept of competitiveness has been redefined over the past 20-25 years I include literature from economic theory and business analysis (Aiginger 2006b; Siggel 2006). It is in this context that the concept of Institutional Competitiveness is introduced. Second, I trace the institutionalization of the discussion into expert systems. Two examples will be emphasized. One is the development of "The post-Washington consensus” another is The Open Method of Coordination within the EU. The presentation is based on a reading of policy papers, reports and other primary sources from international organizations and national governments. Third, I point to how the institutionalization has included a number of welfare reforms and ignited a process towards the transformation of national welfare states. I draw on primary and secondary literature in presenting the concept of competition state (Cerny 1990, 2007; Stopford et al 1991; Jessop 1994, 2003; Hirsch 1995; but also Rosecranze 1999; Bobbit 2002; Weiss 2003). Fourth, and finally, I emphasize how state-society relations have been changed. The concept of competitive corporatism (Rhodes 1998; Molina & Rhodes 2002) is employed.

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Ove K. Pedersen

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