In this article, we conduct a critical reading of the European Union social innovation policy discourse. We argue that rather than being a transformative discourse within European Union policy, European Union social innovation policy discourse reinforces neoliberal hegemony by (re)legitimizing it. Inspired by post-foundational discourse theory and Glynos and Howarth’s logics of critical explanation, we analyse three central European Union social innovation policy documents. We characterize what kind of political project is articulated in and through European Union social innovation policy discourse, and uncover how it relates to neoliberal political rationality. Our contribution lies in showing (1) how the social logics of European Union social innovation policy can be understood as both ‘roll-out’ and ‘roll-with-it’ neoliberalization, thereby relegitimizing and naturalizing neoliberalism; (2) how the political logics of European Union social innovation policy pre-empt the critique of ‘roll-back’ neoliberalization and thus legitimize decreased public expenditure; and (3) how the fantasmatic logics make European Union social innovation policy ideologically useful in relegitimizing neoliberalism through the win-win-win fantasy and the ethical responsibilization of subjects. We argue that resisting the neoliberalizing power of European Union social innovation policy discourse implies resisting the fantasmatic grip of social innovation as carrying a sublime win-win-win. Instead of accepting social innovation as driven by a replication of best practices, we need to understand social innovations as conceived and suited for particular social issues in particular contexts: we call for a different win-win mindset that does not blind innovators to possible negative impacts of social innovations.
- 512 Business and Management
- European Union
- fantasmatic grip
- logics of critical explanation
- moments of neoliberalization
- post-foundational discourse theory
- social innovation policy discourse