Title: The political economy of regionalism in Flanders: imagining and institutionalising the Flemish regional economy
Authors: Oosterlynck, Stijn
Issue Date: Oct-2007
Abstract: This thesis is concerned with globalisation and regionalism in Belgium. It is grounded in a theoretical critique of the new regionalism literature. Although accepting its basic claim about the resurgence of the region as a strategic site
for economic governance, I argue that its account of regional resurgence exhibits several weaknesses, amongst others because it ignores the sociopolitical
struggles through which collective agency on the regional scale is institutionalised. To overcome these weaknesses, I propose to embed it in a scale-sensitive political economy approach of the restructuring of state spatiality. I substantiate this critique with an empirical analysis of the
imagination and institutionalisation of the Flemish regional economy as one concrete expression of globalisation. Given its long history of regionalism,
rooted in a territorialised cultural-linguistic struggle and regional uneven economic development, Belgium offers an unique entry point for the study of the dialectics of regionalism and globalisation.

I analyse Flemish economic strategies against the background of a periodisation of the Belgian political-economic development trajectory. Two detailed case studies on recent industrial policy debates in Flanders are
presented to elaborate the nature of regional economic imagination and institutionalisation. The first case study focuses on the politics of scale that shaped the regional uneven transition to post-Fordist forms of industrial policy
in Belgium. The second case study analyses Flemish anchoring strategies as a specifically Flemish response to globalisation, informed by the Flemish struggle for linguistic-territorial integrity and historical fear for francophone dominance.

I conclude that only a scale sensitive political economy approach that focuses on the changing state spatial strategies fully captures the dialectics of regionalism and globalisation. I finally draw attention to the vital role of
economic nationalism in Flemish region-building and in mediating the tensions between economic globalisation and Flemish economic nation-building.
Table of Contents: List of maps and figures (p.13)
Acknowledgements (p.14)
1 – Globalisation and regionalism in Belgium: historical background and
methodology (p.16)
1.1 Globalisation and regionalism in Belgium: political
economy, history and semiosis (p.16)
1.2 The history of Belgium: regional uneven economic
development and the territorialisation of the language conflict
1.2.1 The roots of the language issue: frenchification,
social divisions and nation-building (p.23)
1.2.2 Regional uneven development (p.24)
1.2.3 The territorialisation of the language conflict (p.26)
1.2.4 The Belgian economy as self-contained unit (p.28)
1.2.5 From language to ‘communautarian’ politics (p.31)
1.3 Methodological notes (p.37)
1.3.1 Periodisation and emblematic moments (p.37)
1.3.2 Research techniques (p.40)
1.4 Thesis outline (p.45)
2 – The new regionalism: a critical survey (p.52)
2.1 Fordism, post-Fordism and the new regionalism (p.52)
2.2 The New Regionalist institutional turn: social embedding
and spatial agglomeration (p.57)
2.3 Spatial fetishism and economic determinism (p.64)
2.4 New regionalism and globalisation (p.71)
2.5 The regulation approach and the regional question (p.77)
2.6 Articulating political and economic new regionalism (p.92)
2.7 Conclusion (p.96)
3 - Imported Fordism, regional trajectories and the crisis of Fordism in Belgium
3.1 Fordism in Belgium (p.101)
3.1.1 Early ‘contractualisation’ of class relations (p.101)
3.1.2 The turn towards Keynesian expansion policy (p.104)
3.1.3 The Belgian economy as production relay of
multinational capital (p.112)
3.1.4 Pre-Fordist industrial structures, Fordist mode of
regulation and different regional industrial policy trajectories
3.2 The regionalisation of economic policy (p.115)
3.2.1 L’état belgo-flamand and Walloon economic
regionalism (p.115)
3.2.2 National Keynesianism but no spatial equalisation
3.2.3 The economic direction of Flemish nationalism and
economic regionalism (p.122)
3.2.4 From regional economic policy to regionalised
economic policy (p.126)
3.3 The crisis of Fordism (p.129)
3.3.1 The failure of Fordist regulatory mechanisms (p.129)
3.3.2 The proliferation of crisis discourses in the 1970s
3.3.3 National crisis politics and the break-through of neoliberalism
3.4 Conclusion (p.146)
4 - The regional search for legitimacy: post-Fordist governance, neo-liberal
politics of scale and the Flemish region (p.148)
4.1 The transition to post-Fordist industrial governance in
Flanders (p.148)
4.1.1 Post-Fordist imaginaries in Flanders (p.148)
4.1.2 Turning it into practice (p.151)
4.1.3 Breaking with economic pessimism (p.155)
4.1.4 The Flemish transition to post-Fordist industrial
governance: political-economic structure and agency (p.157)
4.1.5 The regional search for legitimacy (p.161)
4.1.6 History and biography: Geens and the DIRV-action
4.1.7 Kris Rogiers: the most important Flemish organic intellectual
4.1.8 Geens as the saviour (p.168)
4.1.9 VEV and Flemish government: an alliance for neo-liberal
reforms (p.172)
4.1.10 Testing the future-directed image of the Geens government
4.1.11 Limits to the neo-liberalisation of Flemish industrial policy
4.1.12 GIMV: venture capital and the transition to post-Fordism
4.1.13 Resistance to the DIRV-action (p.185)
4.1.14 The end of the DIRV-action (p.198)
4.2 The regional uneven transition to post-Fordism in Belgium (p.204)
4.2.1 Belgian scale: failed transition and roll-back neo-liberalism
4.2.2 Wallonia: stuck in a pre-Fordist past (p.207)
4.2.3 Popular economic attitudes as products of Walloon history
4.3 Conclusion (p.216)
5 - The politics of anchoring I: the foreign acquisition of the Société Générale
5.1 The Société Générale: a core institution of the Belgian space
economy (p.218)
5.1.1 The ‘nationalisation’ of the Société Générale (p.218)
5.1.2 The Société Générale misses out on second industrial
revolution (p.222)
5.1.3 The Société Générale changes, but too little too late (p.226)
5.2 The end of a national economic symbol (p.230)
5.2.1 Increased vulnerability (p.230)
5.2.2 De Benedetti and his European dream (p.234)
5.2.3 André Leysen, an international entrepreneur (p.236)
5.2.4 A white knight (p.240)
5.2.5 The collapse of Leysen’s anchoring coalition (p.242)
5.2.6 Albert Frère: ‘un marchand des clous’ (p.245)
5.2.7 Yet another anchoring attempt (p.248)
5.2.8 The Belgian state stood by and watched (or did it?) (p.252)
5.2.9 The mediatisation of the acquisition struggle (p.256)
5.3 From Belgian to Flemish anchoring (p.261)
5.3.1. The origins of the anchoring concept (p.261)
5.3.2 A non-event? (p.264)
5.3.3 Koning Boudewijn Stichting: ‘Belgium and its regions’ (p.268)
5.4 Conclusion (p.275)
6 - The politics of anchoring II: the Flemish anchorers (p.277)
6.1 The early Flemish anchorers (p.277)
6.2 The official Flemish anchoring strategy (p.288)
6.2.1 A new government, a new regional economic imaginary
6.2.2 The anchoring of Flemish commercial television (p.294)
6.2.3 Privatisation à la belge (p.300) A short revival of Belgian anchoring: BBL and
Gemeentekrediet (p.304) ASLK and the OKIs (p.307) Sabena (p.312) The Flemish ‘Ankerholding’ (p.314) Anchoring Tractebel? (p.323)
6.2.4 Telenet (p.326)
6.3 Conclusion (p.334)
7 - “Globalisation as French colonisation”: Flemish anchoring and regional
imaginaries of globalisation (p.336)
7.1 Globalisation as French colonisation (p.336)
7.2 Three different anchoring conceptions (p.351)
7.2.1 Ownership or financial anchoring (p.351) The ‘depoliticised’ academic: Patrick Van Cayseele
(p.351) The national-liberals of Trends (p.357)
11 Devising financial anchoring policies: the tragedy
of Flemish anchoring (p.362)
7.2.2 Decision-making or human anchoring (p.369) Strategic decision-making power (p.369) The absence of domestic multinationals in Belgium
7.2.3 Anchoring as an industrial concept (p.382) Rombouts, the Christian labour movement and
regional development (p.383) GIMV: acting as temporary stable shareholder for
growth companies (p.389)
7.3 Flemish anchoring: failure or success? (p.392)
7.4 Epilogue: Walloon anchoring and is anchoring still around in
Flanders? (p.400)
7.5 Conclusion (p.404)
8 - Economic nationalism and the institutionalisation of the Flemish regional
economy (p.407)
8.1 Belgian nation-formation as state-led scale-making project (p.407)
8.2 Flemish regionalism as contending scale-making project (p.410)
8.2.1 The genesis of the Flemish bourgeoisie (p.410)
8.2.2 The basis for regional political mobilisations: language
and regional uneven development (p.418)
8.2.3 Creating regional institutional thickness: the DIRV-action
and Flemish anchoring (p.426)
8.3 Economic nationalism in the age of globalisation (p.429)
8.3.1 Home grown multinationals or local skills base? (p.430)
8.3.2 The social construction of preferences and interests
8.3.3 Research contributions and questions for further research
Bibliography (p.445)
Annex 1 – Interviewee Profiles (p.479)
Annex 2 – Glossary of Acronyms (p.490)
Annex 3 – Maps (p.496)
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Research Group Urban and Regional Planning (-)

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