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The Transnational Construction of European Welfare States: From the Marshall Plan to the Troika

The Carlsberg Foundation's 'Semper Ardens' Fellowships within the Humanities and Social Sciences

What

The project addresses the question if and how the European Union and other forms of transnational collaboration undermine national welfare states and labour market regimes? By developing a novel historical-sociology of law perspective on the relationship between transnational and national developments in the European context from the interwar period onwards, the perspective is brought forward that not only the reforms of the welfare state in recent decades, but also the pre-existing 'golden-age Keynesian welfare state' of the immediate post-WWII period to a large extent was a transnational construct. Transnational collaboration per se is therefore not, so the hypothesis, presenting a threat to national welfare states.

Why

Increased globalisation and intensified transnational integration, most notably but not exclusively through the European Union, is time and again portrayed by academic scholars, mass media and politicians as representing a threat to the welfare state and nationally-organised labour market regimes. The project will provide a more nuanced assessment of the impact of transnational collaboration and integration on national welfare states and labour market arrangements in the European context by adding a historical and legal dimension to ongoing research, which will allow us to see current developments in a new perspective. In particular, the project will debunk the widely established myth concerning the exclusively national origin of the post-WWII welfare state.

How

The project is part of a larger endeavour to develop a historical sociology of law approach to the study of social transformations. As such, the project will primarily be based on analyses of extensive text materials in the form of constitutional texts, legislation and reform proposals which were central to the establishment and evolution of welfare and labour market regimes in a broad set of European countries, most notably continental European countries such as France, Germany and Italy, but also in Scandinavia as well as within transnational institutions such as the OEEC/OECD and the European Communities/European Union and related regimes such as the Marshall Plan and the ongoing transnationally imposed reform efforts in relation to countries such as Greece.

SSR

The project contributes to society by giving an alternative account of how national welfare states and labour market regimes emerged and evolved in different European contexts and challenging some of the myths and assumptions on which political debate and public reform efforts are based. As such, the project seeks to show that there are more possible paths for addressing welfare and labour market issues and the interaction between national and transnational regulation than those envisaged today. The project will thereby provide a basis for the development of new policy options which takes due account on historical experiences and lessons already learned.