This contribution discusses the concept of the ‘foundational economy’ and presents it as a possible way forward for EU Cohesion Policy, beyond the competitiveness versus cohesion divide. Building on the origins of modern welfare states, the foundational economy shifts the perspective from economy-driven investment to essential basic needs for social collective consumption. In certain ways, foundational economy recalls the importance of the so-called ‘services of general interest’ in the European Union that include crucially important infrastructure networks as well as educational, health care and other local services being essential and non-exchangeable for people’s everyday living, security and wellbeing. These sectors constitute an important share in regional labour markets, and thus stabilise regional economies. Unlike traditional national welfare service delivery, foundational services do adjust to local needs and citizens by complementing materialized technical infrastructure and social infrastructure with small-scale services and goods provided by local economies or individuals.
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