Liberalisation and Value Extraction. The Trajectory of Railways in the Neoliberal State


Abstract


The expansion of financial capitalism towards the "lower levels" of economic life (or the foundational economy [Bowman et al. 2014]) is fostered by the privatisation of utilities and outsourcing of pub-lic services, under the encouraging banner of liberalisation. Our paper aims to describe some aspects of this transformation and its implications for social life, referring to the case of Italian railways. The conditions of use of the transport service have radically changed. At least three aspects must be emphasised: 1. The overall volume of services provided is reduced, increasing costs for the community; 2. The less profitable lines are sacrificed, isolating the most marginal areas of the country and exacerbating the socio-economic divide; 3. The services can be accessed only at market rates, and the objective of providing citizens with full mobility is pursued with progressively less vigour. We argue that the result of the liberalisation of Italian railways is not a competitive market populated by efficient economic actors. Not only has the monopoly been preserved, but the monopolist - i.e. the state: the railways are 100% owned by the Treasury - gets sensational profits without any risk, since the costs of maintenance and investment are borne by public finance

Keywords: foundational economy; Italy; liberalisation; neoliberalism; Railways

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