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Governing What Cannot Be Named : Europe, Platform Economy and the Digital Markets Act

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Title: Governing What Cannot Be Named : Europe, Platform Economy and the Digital Markets Act
Author(s): Saari, Leevi
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Politics, Media and Communication
Specialisation: World Politics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
This thesis analyses the regulation of platform economy in the European Commission. The rise of large technology corporations as the underlying infrastructure of much of social activity has received fervent attention in recent years. However, there is still little consensus on the implications of this process. Does the new platform economy affect only market processes, or does it have broader societal consequences? Further, is platform economy something truly new or is it only a continuation of past forms of corporate power? These questions have acute practical importance. On the 15th of December 2020, the European Commission released a proposal for legislation that seeks to address the power of large platform corporations, called the “Digital Markets Act”. What kind of corporate power does this proposal seek to regulate? And what does it suggest about the regulatory paradigm of the European Commission? The contribution of this thesis consists of three parts. The first part is conceptual. In Chapter 2, an original analytical framework for classifying different dimensions of platform power is proposed. This framework helps to illustrate the continuities and novelties in the capabilities of platform corporations and bring together disconnected strands of research from different disciplines. The second part is empirical. In Chapter 3, the development of platform regulation in the European Commission from Spring 2015 to December 2020 is explained and the framework developed in Chapter 2 is used to analyze a recent proposal for regulation of platform economy, the Digital Markets Act. The last part of the contribution is theoretical. In Chapter 4, the Commission’s proposal is mapped on the horizon of potential alternative contrast spaces, which helps to illuminate the underlying political choices and clarify possible contradictions between different authors. The key conclusion of the work is that the European Commission has sought to address platform economy primarily as an aberration of efficient market processes. This has impacted the type of knowledge that is used in policymaking as well as the range of stakeholders consulted for the legislation. As a consequence, the European Commission ends up seeing platform corporations as actors whose capabilities are limited to manipulation of market activities. Systematic treatment of alternative framings is used to illuminate opportunities for broader analyses on the role of platform economy in the global political economy.
Keyword(s): platform economy European Union European Commission global governance global political economy policy ideas alustatalous Euroopan talousalue politiikkaideat EU-politiikka globaali hallinta kansainvälinen politiikka politiikkaohjelmat taloudellinen sääntely

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