Transnational Capitalism and the Struggle over European Integration

Transnational Capitalism and the Struggle over European Integration

Transnational Capitalism and the Struggle over European Integration

Transnational Capitalism and the Struggle over European Integration

Synopsis

This book presents an analysis of the transnational social forces in the making of a new European socio-economic order that emerged out of the European integration process during the 1980s and 1990s. Arguing that the political economy of European integration must be put within the context of a changing global capitalism, Van Apeldoorn examines how European change is linked to global change and how transnational actors mediate these changes.

Excerpt

The process of European integration has experienced a dramatic acceleration over the last two decades. Since the early 1980s, three developments particularly stand out. First, the completion of the internal market was agreed upon through the Commission’s White Paper of 1985. This lengthy and complicated process is still not fully realised as recent attempts to unify European financial markets indicate. Second, the Maastricht Treaty of 1991 has resulted in the recent introduction of a European single currency, an unprecedented step towards an Ever Closer Union indeed. Finally, the European Union is on the eve of the most important and far-reaching enlargement in its history. The so-called ‘big bang’ (the entrance of eight Central and East-European countries along with Malta and Cyprus in 2002-04) will not only have an enormous impact on the economic and socio-political structures of the candidate member states but also on the functioning of the enlarged Union itself. As a result of these three developments, the European Union has fundamentally altered its image of a stagnant and inward-looking entity - so typical for the period of Eurosclerosis between 1973 and 1983 - and is rapidly enhancing its capacity to act as an important player in European and global affairs.

During the same two decades, the world at large has also dramatically changed. On the one hand, the renaissance of political and economic liberalism has manifested itself in successive waves of democratisation in different parts of the world and, on the other, in the process of global neo-liberal restructuring . The European Union is a particularly strong case in point as far as the latter phenomenon is concerned. Under the banner of improving competitiveness as a response to economic globalisation, deregulation, privatisation and flexibilisation have become the keywords in today’s integration discourse. But this neo-liberal turn in the process of European integration was by no means an uncontested one. In his Transnational Capitalism and the Struggle over European Integration, Bastiaan van Apeldoorn convincingly shows the co-existence of two rival projects in the 1980s. First, a neo-mercantilist concept of European order, first and foremost aimed at creating so-called ‘European champions’ (of industry) which could face non-European competition, if necessary, by temporarily building a ‘fortress Europe’. Second, a neo-liberal project that stressed the need for free-market integration on a world scale and aimed at transforming the ‘European social model’ into the supposedly more competitive Anglo-Saxon or Neo-American model.

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