Law and Competition in Twentieth Century Europe: Protecting Prometheus

Law and Competition in Twentieth Century Europe: Protecting Prometheus

Law and Competition in Twentieth Century Europe: Protecting Prometheus

Law and Competition in Twentieth Century Europe: Protecting Prometheus


Protecting economic competition has become a major objective of government in Western Europe, and competition law has become a central part of economic and legal experience. The competition law of the European Union has played a key role in the success of European integration during the last four decades, and it is likely to do so in the future. In recent years, national competition laws have also become increasingly important, often creating tensions between national-level and European-level regulation. Yet, despite its importance, images of European experience with competition law often remain vague and are sometimes dangerously distorted. This book examines European experience in protecting competition, analysing its dynamics, revealing its importance and highlighting the political and economic issues it raises.


Competition is popular -- or so it seems. At least politicians and pundits in most places in the world tend to sing its praises and/or acknowledge its necessity. But what. kind of competition and what is and should be the relationship between the process of 'competition' and other components of societal life? Despite their importance, these questions have been relatively little explored. Economic interests and ideologies of left and right have often blocked inquiry into the issues and obscured answers to the questions. This book pursues the inquiry by looking at one component of European experience with competition: the ways in which Europeans have conceived and used law to protect and, sometimes, to shape competition.

The book's perspective is new. In it, competition law is seen as part of the relationship between polity, society, and economy in twentieth century Europe -- imbedded in its conflicts, reflecting its key ideas and tensions and shaping its development. Moreover, the perspective is 'European' -- it treats the development of competition law as a European phenomenon and probes the relationships among national competition laws and between those systems and the competition law of the European Union. Europe's future is likely to depend in no small measure on how it understands and is influenced by its past relationships with the market, and in this book I seek to shed light on part of that experience.

The idea of writing this kind of book has been my constant (if often neglected) companion for some fifteen years. The project initially seemed daunting and sometimes Sisyphean. How could I (or anyone else for that matter) learn enough about the various European experiences and their relationships to one another to do the project justice? I began to collect and study materials and to discuss aspects of European experience with scholars, government officials, and practitioners in various countries, but I continued to doubt that the project I envisioned could be done as I thought it should be done.

Yet the more I talked with those involved in competition law in Europe and the more I read about twentieth century Europe, the more I was convinced that the result might be worth the effort -- the story needed to be told, distorted images needed to be corrected, the dynamics of European competition law systems had to be better understood, and the disparate experiences of European states had to be examined from a 'European' perspective. This conviction was strengthened by the many Europeans who urged me to undertake and then to continue the project, even while warning me about its many risks and difficulties. 'We need such a book', they said. As the process of European . . .

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