Active Inclusion in a Multi-Level and Multi-Actor Context
Edited by Rune Halvorsen and Bjørn Hvinden
Chapter 4: Poverty and social inclusion as emerging policy arenas in the EU
The so-called ‘European Social Dimension’ has been the subject of a vast debate in the past couple of decades. The literature tends to be divided between cautious optimism and Euro-pessimism. The optimists point to the purposeful autonomy of key institutions in Europe’s ‘multilevel’ polity and the gradual ‘socialization’ of the EU regulatory order. The pessimists argue instead that economic integration has contributed to the ‘opening’ of the European economy and the breaking down of the borders of trade competition while contributing little to new institution building, especially in the social sphere. For a long time, pessimists have seen the asymmetry between market-making ‘negative integration’ and market-correcting ‘positive integration’ as conducive to perverse effects (Scharpf, 1999). They have often evoked such effects in the debate with the notions of ‘social dumping’, ‘social devaluations’ or a ‘race to the bottom’ between different member states in terms of welfare standards and corresponding tax levels.
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