Making an exception: market design and the politics of re-regulation in the French electricity sector

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Abstract

By subjecting market participants to uncertain and volatile prices, the liberalization of public concerns generates opposition that threatens its own survival. This paper asks how this contradiction is resolved in practice. We examine the case of the French electric power industry. When this sector was liberalized and integrated with European markets, a period of unexpectedly high prices brought strenuous objections from the French electro-intensive industries, and a crisis in political support for liberalization. Based on interviews with key participants and analysis of the documentary record, we trace a series of efforts to reach a political accommodation. Liberalization has not realized the neoliberal imaginary of an efficient and peaceful allocation of state services. But it has effectively transformed the terms under which political-economic struggles proceed, mediating, constraining and governing the politics of distribution.

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Reverdy, T., & Breslau, D. (2019). Making an exception: market design and the politics of re-regulation in the French electricity sector. Economy and Society, 48(2), 197–220. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085147.2019.1576434

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