Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Unwrapping the European social model

Unwrapping the European social model

Maria Jepsen
Amparo Serrano Pascual
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Unwrapping the European social model
    Book Description:

    The notion of the European Social Model (ESM) has been one of the fastest growing in European political and academic discourse in recent years. It is conventionally used to describe the European experience of simultaneously promoting sustainable economic growth and social cohesion. However, the concept has suffered from a lack of clear definition. And where definitions have been found in the literature, they do not necessarily converge. This book presents the outcome of a project coordinated by the European Trade Union Institute in which experts from different countries and social scientific disciplines (sociology, political science and economics) were invited to reflect on both the meaning and political status of the concept of the ESM. In addition to analysing the ambiguities and multiple meanings attributed to the concept, the authors unpick the underlying assumptions and make use of a new approach - the ESM as political project - with which European countries can build consensus and share a common understanding. Offering a new analytical framework and with new empirical evidence, Unwrapping the European Social Model is essential reading for all those involved in European social policy research, education, policy and practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-161-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures and tables
    (pp. iv-v)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Amparo Serrano Pascual and Maria Jepsen

    Social actors’ political awareness of the need to reinforce the supranational dimension of social cohesion has gradually turned the concept of the European Social Model (ESM) into a key notion in political and scientific debates on social responses to globalisation. As this concept plays a key part in the articulation of the debate, a meta-analysis is required in order to avoid, often unnecessary, conceptual traps.

    Use of the concept of ESM in academic and political debate is characterised by two main and interconnected features (Jepsen and Serrano Pascual, this volume): on the one hand, the usually taken-for-granted assumption of the...

  3. ONE The concept of the ESM and supranational legitimacy-building
    (pp. 25-46)
    Maria Jepsen and Amparo Serrano Pascual

    One of the fastest growing European catchwords at the present time – the ‘European Social Model’ (ESM) – is used to describe the European experience of promoting, simultaneously, sustainable economic growth and social cohesion. The concept is characterised by a high degree of ambiguity and polysemy; it is a loosely defined normative concept and, as such, is used with differing meanings in accordance with rather half-baked definitions. A clear definition of what constitutes its essence seems to be lacking in most articles on the subject, while a review of some of the most important of these articles reveals that, insofar as definitions...

  4. TWO Taking stock of social Europe: is there such a thing as a community social model?
    (pp. 47-72)
    Janine Goetschy

    The European Social Model (ESM) is a notion that constitutes a valuable analytical tool for the academic world as well as being a term capable of mobilising political decision-makers, especially when it comes to envisaging, constructing and implementing a common social and employment policy agenda at the European level, or alternatively when some of the very foundations of the ESM come under threat and are in need of reform. It is a heuristic tool but also, increasingly, a political referent used to legitimise reforms.

    Despite the many shortcomings of such a ‘catch-all’ concept, it has proved useful from an academic...

  5. THREE Employment and pay in Europe and the US: food for thought about flexibility and the European Social Model
    (pp. 73-92)
    Wiemer Salverda

    The aim of this contribution is to shed some light on the European Social Model (ESM) by approaching it from the perspective of employment, or the economy more generally, but also by comparing it to the United States (US) model. The approach raises the question of what the model stands for as well as the nature of its effects. Analysis of the latter aspect may help to improve knowledge of the former, thus serving as a heuristic device. But there is more to it than that. One cannot fully know and understand a model by looking at its institutions and...

  6. FOUR Activation policies and the European Social Model
    (pp. 93-120)
    Joel F. Handler

    In their introduction to this volume, Jepsen and Serrano Pascual posit that the concept of the European Social Model (ESM) can be understood as a political project to legitimise European institutions. The goal of this political project is to build a common European identity, which is based more on creating common social policy solutions than on identifying institutions and values shared by Western European nations. One of the most widely accepted policy ideas throughout Western Europe is that welfare programmes for the working-age poor need to be changed from passive to active. Activation was needed, according to the central banks,...

  7. FIVE Has the European Social Model a distinctive activation touch?
    (pp. 121-144)
    Jean-Claude Barbier

    Is there any connection between what is fuzzily named ‘activation’ and what is equally fuzzily named the ‘European Social Model – ESM’? At first sight the answer might be considered obvious: social policies at the European Union (EU) level are commonly framed in terms of ‘activation’, a term that has now become very commonplace in political texts. Yet, to address the question more seriously one needs, first, a robust notion of what the ESM is/could be – not only as a mobilising motto, but as an existing entity – and, second, a firm conceptualisation of ‘activation’ and of the forms it actually takes...

  8. SIX The European Social Model and gender equality
    (pp. 145-166)
    Lilja Mósesdóttir

    At the Lisbon Council in 2000, the European Union (EU) committed itself to the 10-year strategic goal of becoming the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and social cohesion, including gender equality. There are, however, clear indications that the transition towards the knowledge-based economy increases the risk of social exclusion, as more people now face difficulties in attaining and remaining in secure and well-paid jobs. Moreover, progress towards gender equality has been slow, and gender gaps remain substantial across the EU. The EU has urged the member...

  9. SEVEN The European Social Model and enlargement
    (pp. 167-188)
    Maarten Keune

    In May 2004, after a long period of preparation, eight former state-socialist countries joined the European Union (EU). The entry of these new member states (NMS) raises a number of questions concerning the relationship between the enlargement of the EU and the European Social Model (ESM). For some, enlargement is a threat to the ESM. It is argued that, in combination with the restrictive conditions set by the European Monetary Union (EMU), enlargement may shift the balance of power on the labour market to the employers, lead to higher income inequality and result in a partial dismantling of the welfare...

  10. EIGHT Reforming the European Social Model and the politics of indicators: from the unemployment rate to the employment rate in the European Employment Strategy
    (pp. 189-212)
    Robert Salais

    The Open Method of Coordination (OMC) was introduced for the purpose of monitoring the ‘modernisation’ of the European Social Model (ESM) from a hypothetical ‘centre’ towards greater flexibility, better economic efficiency and lower costs. What verdict can be issued concerning the OMC, in the context of reform of the ESM? This chapter will focus on the European Employment Strategy (EES) as an exemplar of what could be called ‘a politics of indicators’, by which is meant the specific type of political action and monitoring introduced by the OMC.

    Under the EES the benchmarking of national employment policies, by means of...

  11. NINE Assessing the European Social Model against the capability approach
    (pp. 213-232)
    Jean-Michel Bonvin

    The contemporary welfare state is undergoing a threefold transformation towardsactivationof recipients,individualisationor contractualisation of benefits, andterritorialisationof modes of governance. Briefly stated, the very aim of the welfare state is tending to evolve from paying cash compensation to restoring acting capacity, mainly working and productive capacity; this in turn requires taking into account individual characteristics within the field of the intervention of the welfare state, by contrast with the conventional social programmes based on categories of risk; it also implies a decentralisation of the modes of operation in order to equip local welfare agents with the...

  12. TEN Social dialogue as a regulatory mode of the ESM: some empirical evidence from the new member states
    (pp. 233-254)
    Céline Lafoucriere and Roy Green

    Jepsen and Serrano Pascual (2005, p 1) explain that the term ‘European Social Model’ (ESM) is increasingly used within the European Union (EU) as a ‘catchword describing the European experience of simultaneously promoting sustainable economic growth and social cohesion’. However, the vague nature of this concept becomes apparent as soon as one focuses on the question of its definition. As part of the overall research task undertaken in this book, this chapter focuses on establishing social dialogue as an intrinsic regulatory tool of the ESM. Developed in the last few decades and strengthened in the 1980s and 1990s by the...