We’ve already noted that the words ‘competitive’ and ‘competitiveness’ (as applied to whole nation states) are backed by a supportive cast of various other weasel words and terms. One of the commonest is ‘anti-business’ – a term that we’ll dissect in the near future. This UK-focused article highlights prominent usage of the term, in the run-up to next May’s General Election, focusing on the case of Stefano Pessina, boss of the retail pharmacy giant Walgreen Boots Alliance. As Matthew Watson argues, voters should check the evidence on both sides of the argument for tell-tale signs of self-serving use of such competitiveness mantras.
The Two Sides of Speaking Up for Business
By Mathew Watson, Professor of Political Economy and ESRC Professorial Fellow, University of Warwick. An earlier version of this post appeared on the Speri Comment blog in March 2015. Permission to re-post is very gratefully acknowledged.
Our inaugural blog explained how we’re dedicated to unpacking “competitiveness” as it applies to countries, not companies.
Once you start looking out for these c-words, ‘competitive,’ ‘compete,’ ‘competition,’ you will find them everywhere to talk about states and whole countries (and even whole regional blocks, like Europe). These words are used to close down debate.
“Well, we must do this, in order to stay ‘competitive,’ ” a politician says.
And people sigh, hang their heads, and move on. They feel powerless.
Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism calls this concern with so-called competitiveness “a not very good yet widely accepted excuse for crushing labour.” And we’d tend to agree.