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The Politics of EU Economic Policymaking: Values, Institutions and Social Outcomes

Smith, Andy (2015) The Politics of EU Economic Policymaking: Values, Institutions and Social Outcomes. [Conference Proceedings] (Submitted)

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    At the heart of European integration lies a ‘Single Market’ wherein production and trade across national borders take place relatively freely within the framework of EU-­‐wide legislation and policies. Although many actors and commentators reject the term, research has convincingly shown that many of these interventions in the economy amount to industrial policy in some shape or form. However, much less is known about the politics driving how these policies have been made and the orientations they have taken. Indeed, a lack of knowledge in this matter has been caused by failures to define precisely this very politics and, consequently, an absence of research which targets it directly. In seeking to escape from this analytical cul-­‐de-­‐ sac, this paper has two more specific aims. The first is to propose a sharp and operational definition of politics as being the mobilization or suppression of values in order to change or reproduce the institutions which structure economic activity. This definition has been derived from a melding together of constructivist, institutionnalist and Weberian theories and concepts. From empirically-­‐oriented constructivism an initial premise adopted is that we live in a world of contingency within which actors shape not only their own strategies, but also the very ‘problems’ they seek to reduce, regularize or mediate. However, as historical and sociological institutionalism has convincingly shown, for such representations of reality to become ‘social’ and thereby impact upon collective and public action, they have to be judged ‘appropriate’ to changing or reproducing the ‘institutional orders’ which structure societies, economies and polities. When studying such change or reproduction, adding Weberian sociology to this framework guides research to focus upon confrontations between values, i.e. beliefs about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, that lie at their heart. Even within the constructivism and institutionalisms I draw upon, the role played by values is too often obscured by important, yet ultimately secondary, issues of argument and alliance-­‐making. The second aim of the paper is to test the heuristic value of this value-­‐centered approach to politics using two case studies of EU-­‐scale regulation: one of the pharmaceutical industry, the other of inter-­‐firm competition. As will be highlighted, focusing upon the role played by values during these instances of policymaking provides a means of revealing the key choices that have been made, the alternatives stifled and the patterns of domination that have resulted or been reproduced. In so doing, a further goal will be to go considerably beyond visions of the EU in general, and its economic policies in particular, as ‘neo-­‐liberal’ and depoliticized. Although, many actors involved in this scale of government can be depicted in general terms as neo-­‐liberals and do indeed seek to technicize the making of EU policies, this tells us little about the fundamentally political content of their value systems. For both analytical and normative reasons, this politics simply must be researched then debated more directly and openly than European Studies has thus far been able to do.

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    Item Type: Conference Proceedings
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > economic and financial affairs > economic policy
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2015 (14th), March 4-7, 2015
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2018 16:04
    Number of Pages: 22
    Last Modified: 06 Mar 2018 16:04

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