UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Performing market power in U.S. antitrust regulation Bervejillo Jones, Guillermo


Antitrust regulation was established in the United States in response to growing public concern about the corrosive economic power of monopolies and robber barons in the late 19th century (Rowe, 1983). Underlying these concerns and those of academic commentators dating back to the birth of the modern corporation in the mid-1800s (Barkan, 2013), was the idea that corporations could hold “power” which they could abuse to society’s detriment. But what specifically is meant by this notion of power? In contemporary antitrust regulation, this form of power is referred to as “market power” and it is conceptualized as a firm’s ability to profitably set and hold prices above those that would prevail in a competitive market. The market power model underlies regulatory decisions with widespread economic impact and it has shaped the scope and form of antitrust regulation. In this thesis I argue that rather than a simple description of an actually-existing state of affairs, the market power model is an active force transforming its environment (MacKenzie, 2006). That is, the market power model rearranges economic truths through the routine standards, procedures, and analytical tools upheld by the US Department of Justice. These performative practices are laid bare in the revisions of the Department’s Merger Guidelines, which reveal how the market power model structures the world that antitrust practitioners can feasibly interact with.

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