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REScEU Report Summary

Project ID: 340534
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Italy


With the establishment of EMU and, in particular, during the euro-crisis, a visible friction has emerged between “Economic” and “Social” Europe. The EU’s “social deficit” has triggered an increasing politicization of redistributive issues within supranational, transnational and national arenas. Various lines of conflict have taken shape, revolving around who questions (who are “we”, i.e. issues of identity and inclusion/exclusion); what questions (how much redistribution within and across the “we” collectivities) and who decides questions (the locus of authority that can produce and guarantee organised solidarity). The key challenge facing today political leaders is how to “glue” the Union together as a recognizeable, functioning and legitimate polity. This requires a double rebalancing: 1) between the logic of supranational and transnational “opening” and the logic of national “closure”; 2) between the logic of “economic stability” and that of “social solidarity”, on the other.

How can we document empirically the clash between “Economic” and “Social” Europe? What are its causes? Is “reconciliation” possible, and how? These are the fundamental research questions of RescEu. The empirical documentation/analysis focuses on four clearly observable lines of conflicts, centered on the following issues: 1) the overall mission of the EU -market-making vs market-correcting; 2) the issue of cross-national transfers and solidarity; 3) the issue of free movement and access to domestic welfare;4) and the issue of competences, i.e. supranational integration vs domestic autonomy. For each line of conflict, the following data are being collected: political and institutional event data; attitudinal data (through two original surveys –one mass and one elite- covering 7 countries;); social media data (twitter analysis); text analysis data. A number of qualitative case studies are also being conducted on specific conflict cases.

Causal analysis builds on the so-called “state-building” tradition in political science. Building on the neo-Weberian and neo-Rokkanian literature, the project has elaborated an original theoretical framework, centered on the interaction between the political sphere (where choices are made by elected leaders and state officials) and the intellectual sphere (where ideas and broad normative visions are generated). Though specifically linked to the project, this framework has a wide and general scope and has the potential of turning into a novel approach for macro-political analysis as such. In the light of our framework, the “deconciliation” between Economic and Social Europe can be linked to two perverse dynamics. The first dynamic is political and institutional and has increasingly constricted the European political sphere through an excess of formalization (rigid rules and fixed targets), largely self-defeating in terms of polity maintenance. The second dynamic is intellectual and has promoted and entrenched – especially in supranational institutions, under German influence- an econocratic paradigm exclusively centred on instrumental objectives, which has dried up alternative symbolic resources and obstructed the elaboration of forward looking visions, more attentive to the “caring” side of the integration project. Both dynamics are the object of intensive empirical and explanatory exploration, including through specific case studies.

The project rests on the assumption that “reconciliation” is not only normatively desirable but also functionally necessary in order to rescue the European project. Based on the mid-term results of the project, we do believe that reconciliation is possible, but only if carefully crafted through an extraordinary mobilization of political and intellectual resources. Through a fruitful dialogue between different disciplinary perspectives (political science, law, philosophy, economics) the Rescue team is engaged in a forward-looking exercise for identifying adequate symbolic frames and policy solutions (such as the establishment of a fully-fledged European Social Union) as well as the potential actors who might bring about transformative change.

The findings of the mass survey show a surprising and unexpected attitudinal potential for reconciliation. A vast majority of voters is silently hiding under the Eurosceptic blankets, While this silent majority shows notable fears about the social and political implications of integration, it also favors continuing EU membership, provided that the EU become more socially oriented. Voters seem ready to support a much higher degree of pan-European solidarity than currently available, including a favorable attitude vis-à-vis some of the policy solutions imagined by the REScEU team.

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