Counter-hegemonic Neoliberalism? Making sense of EU platform regulation

29 November 2023



The platforms that hold the power in the digital economy, and the politics that surround them, are a central topic in contemporary political economy. The EU is widely perceived as a digital laggard, as it is home to very few leading digital corporations, and it is exposed to the market hegemony of the Big Tech platforms. Moreover, the EU is often considered the pioneer of digital regulation, and its platform politics have gained momentum as the EU Commission has unleashed a swathe of new regulatory initiatives, ranging from competition policies to governance of digital content, data flows and platform work.

In this talk, I treat platform control and regulation as a matter of contested market design. I offer an analysis of the recent stream of EU platform regulation, questioning how it relates to the historical trajectory of the platform economy and established path dependencies within the EU. I argue that it is characterised by a critical approach to the power of digital platforms and a continuation of negative integration in the EU, and I suggest that it should be understood as a manifestation of counter-hegemonic neoliberalism, as it essentially enforces market-based governance of society through political market design.


Philipp Staab is professor for the Sociology of the Future of Work at Humboldt University of Berlin and Einstein Center Digital Future. His 2019 book “Digitaler Kapitalismus” (English version appearing in February 2023 with Manchester University Press) was awarded the Matthöfer Price for critical economic studies. Leading German weekly paper DIE ZEIT recently listed him as one of 12 leading German intellectuals “whose thinking matters now”. He is author of numerous books, academic and policy papers dealing with the digital transformation of markets, labour and social inequality. His most recent research explores the connections between digital technologies and the sustainability transformation of modern societies. In 2023 he published his new book on the Adaptive Society with prestigious German publisher Suhrkamp.

Further reading

Staab, P., Sieron, S., Piétron, D. ‘Counter-hegemonic Neoliberalism. The Political Economy of European Data-Regulation’, Weizenbaum Journal of the Digital Society

Staab, P. and Thiel, T. ‘Social Media and the Digital Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’, Culture, Theory & Society 39/4, Special Issue A New Structural of the Public Sphere?, S. 124-142

Staab, P., Lange, S., Santarius, T. (2022) ‘Digital Reset. Redirecting Technologies for the Deep Sustainability Transformation’ report, Digitilization for Sustainability (D4S), Berlin

Staab, P., Piètron, D., Hofman, F. (2022) ‘Sustainable Digital Market Design. A Data-Based Approach to the Circular Economy’, Research Paper, ECDF Working Paper Series #001, Berlin

Staab, P. (2020) ‘Enclosing the Market’

Philipp Staab: The Crises of Digital Capitalism