Lucy Ford


This article offers a critical analysis of EU trade policy. It does so by highlighting the political and economic enclosures within which EU trade policy is embedded and that continue to hamper more holistic and interdisciplinary analyses that are argued to be necessary in order to comprehend the obstacles to and avenues towards a more sustainable and socially just world. The article critically analyses economic and political hegemony by drawing on two strands of critical international thought, namely neo-Gramscian analysis and global political ecology, employing a critical realist approach. The article identifies the perceived twin short-comings of conventional analyses: firstly, the neglect of understandings of power relations and social justice, and secondly the lack of attention to criteria of sustainability. Within critical debates about European governance, including the governance of trade and trade policy, neo-Gramscian perspectives highlight the power relations within EU governance, exposing the mechanisms of hegemony as well as identifying potential counter-hegemonic forces. While this offers important insights, the article argues that a critical perspective cannot be complete without attention to sustainability. Political ecology makes a vital contribution to critical perspectives by highlighting the natural limits within which by necessity all human activity takes place. Using illustrations from trade policy debates, the article argues that current EU trade policy and governance is not best placed to meet the challenges of sustainability and social justice and it points to the need for more holistic systems thinking to challenge orthodoxy.


Article Keywords

Critical international political economy, hegemony of economic and political orthodoxy, political ecology, social justice, sustainability

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