The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and European Integration

By Glyn Morgan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

Welfare

KARL POLANYI's seminal 1944 text, The Great Transformation, sought to show how modern efforts to create “a self-regulating market” invariably led to countervailing efforts to ensure that the market served socially desirable ends.1 While the two poles of Polanyi's dialectical argument—a wholly self-regulating market at one pole, a wholly socialized market at the other—remain, as ever, utterly impractical, political battles continue to be fought over the space between these two poles. Some (market liberals) believe that individuals are best served by a Rechtstaat, a polity that does little more than establish the rule of law and enforce contracts; others (social democrats) believe that individuals can flourish only in a Sozialstaat, a polity that seeks to ensure both a social minimum and an equitable distribution of wealth.2

Not surprisingly, market liberals and social democrats tend to hold sharply opposing views of European integration. They disagree, first and foremost, over the current impact of EU policies. For the market liberal, these policies are market-constraining when they ought to be marketconforming.3 For the social democrat, in contrast, the EU not only enacts policies that are insufficiently market constraining; it also makes it more difficult for national governments themselves to enact marketconstraining policies.4 In addition to this disagreement over current EU policies, market liberals and social democrats disagree about the policies that a more integrated Europe ideally ought to pursue. While the term “superstate” has come now to signify a centralized Brussels-based polity that enacts market-constraining policies,5 there is no obvious reason why a unitary European state (a superstate, in other words) must be either social democratic or market liberal in its economic orientation. Its economic orientation, ideally, ought to be a matter for Europe's wouldbe citizens to decide.6 Doubtless, some European citizens will favor a social democratic (“market-constraining”) Europe, while others will favor a market liberal (“market-conforming”) Europe.

The fact that Europeans tend to disagree among themselves about the relative merits of social democracy and market liberalism has not deterred attempts to justify European political integration on the basis of one or another of these economic philosophies. Before examining some

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