Progressive Regression. Metamorphoses of European Social Policy

In: New Left Review 118, July-August 2019, pp. 117-139.

Has any polity in world history undergone such a rapid and far-reaching series of transmogrifications as the European Union? Founded as an organization for joint economic planning among six adjacent countries, in the context of the state-managed capitalism of the post-war era, it grew into a free-trade zone, increasingly devoted to neoliberal internationalism under the rubric of the ‘Internal Market’. As the number and heterogeneity of member states grew, ‘positive integration’ was replaced by ‘negative integration’, in effect market-building: the removal of national regulations impeding trade, in an ever-broader sense, within the union. After the fall of the Soviet bloc in 1989, the EU became in addition a geostrategic project, closely intertwined with American strategy in relation to Russia. From a handful of countries jointly administering a small number of key economic sectors, the EU developed into a neoliberal empire of 28 states, obliged under union treaties to allow for freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and labour, and to refrain from ‘anti-competitive’ intervention in their economies. (…)

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First appeared as MPIfG Discussion Paper 18/11. To be downloaded here.