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Old Wine in New Bottles? Ideas and Discourses on the EU Social Dimension from Flexicurity to Social Rights

European Union
Social Policy
Social Welfare
Policy Change
Solidarity
Pamela Pansardi
Università degli Studi di Pavia
Pamela Pansardi
Università degli Studi di Pavia
Patrik Vesan
University of Valle d'Aosta

Abstract

While launching the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2015, the President of the European Commission (EC) Jean Claude Juncker declared that this initiative was aimed at fostering an «upward social convergence», especially within the Euro-area. The EPSR is intended to serve as a compass for the promotion of new legislative and policy initiatives at the EU and national level. At the same time, it can be interpreted as a part of a new communicative strategy intended to depart from the neoliberal/austerity language that permeated EC's discourses on the EU social dimension over recent years. Therefore, from a discourse analysis perspective, the EPSR could also be analysed as one of the latest EC's attempts to face the multiple European integration crises. This paper explores this hypothesis specifically by looking at whether and why the Juncker Commission has triggered a discursive shift on Social Europe. More in details, the paper presents the study (through a combination of qualitative and software-based quantitative content analysis) of a corpus of selected EC's texts (e.g. Annual Growth Survey, Communications, Green/White and Reflections papers, State of the Union speeches) from 2010 to the present days. The empirical investigation is based on an analytical grid which detects changes in EC's discourse on the EU social dimension. Our interest lies in understanding how such discourse has been developed over the years. Specifically, the paper looks at the way in which the Juncker Commission makes sense of the idea of social rights and social justice, as well as of the relationship between the social and economic dimensions of the European integration process, in comparison with the discourse of the Barroso Commission.