Handbook of European Policies
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Handbook of European Policies

Interpretive Approaches to the EU

Edited by Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch

This definitive Handbook addresses the current lack of research into European policymaking and development using an interpretive perspective. Questioning areas that mainstream approaches tend to neglect, contributors target the ways in which ideas, arguments and discourses shape policies in the institutional context of the EU.
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Chapter 9: EU consumer policy

Katharina T. Paul and Holger Straßheim


This chapter recounts the difficult emergence of consumer policy at the level of the EU and its expansion against the depoliticization at work throughout its development. Moving beyond institutionalist accounts, we offer a critical focus on continuities and changes in notions of ‘being a European consumer’ and how these are invoked in policy discourse. First, we propose that the quality of language and complex interaction in this multi-level setting, as well as the particular strategy of the European Commission to set aside consumer affairs – as a strategy of depoliticization – marked the gradual development of this policy area. Second, we argue that these ambiguities – and the ‘interpretive voids’ they produce – form the very conditions for the rise of behavioural approaches as a relatively recent regulatory paradigm in European consumer policy.

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