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Towards a Cultural Political Economy

Towards a Cultural Political Economy

Putting Culture in its Place in Political Economy

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop

This fascinating volume offers a critique of recent institutional and cultural turns in heterodox economics and political economy. Using seven case studies as examples, the authors explore how research on sense- and meaning-making can deepen critical studies in political economy, illuminating its role in critiquing the specific categories, contradictions and crisis-tendencies of capitalism.

Chapter 8: The production of a hegemonic knowledge brand: competitiveness discourses and neoliberal developmentalism

Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, institutional economics, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


The crisis of Atlantic Fordism in developed economies and of import substitution industrialization in some developing countries prompted many economic and political imaginaries proposing more or less radical alternatives to these crisis-hit paradigms. These new imaginaries include neoliberal narratives such as flexibility, privatization, deregulation, globalization, export orientation, innovation, competitiveness, and so on. There has been increasing focus upon the supply side and getting ‘competitiveness right’ as the neoliberal policy prescription since the end of the 1990s (Reinert 2007). This chapter has four parts. First, it examines the production of ‘competitiveness’ discourses over three overlapping stages from theoretical through policy paradigm to knowledge brand. Focusing on the latter two, it discusses an influential account offered by Michael E. Porter and his Harvard Business School associates. It examines how these academic-cum-consultant figures and their narratives gradually became a ‘knowledge brand’ and, with time, condensed discursive and institutional power in the knowledge–consultancy–policy circuit.

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