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 The power of European integration

The power of European integration

Olaf Cramme

12 September 2011


New paper by Olaf Cramme on tackling the weakness in centre-left pro-Europeanism

Since the end of the heyday of nation-state social democracy, centre-left policymakers across Europe have been in search of a governing model capable of responding to ever-increasing global – and indeed regional – interdependence and taking on the destructive and undemocratic forces of capitalism.

The European Union is supposed to form an integral part of this model. However, the left’s internal heterogeneity, persistent self-doubt, and, above all, the absence of a clear line of reasoning about the power and purpose of European integration have so far impeded a stronger social democratic imprint on the European project.

This paper looks at the underlying causes of the weakness in social democratic pro-Europeanism, setting out three specific predicaments: first, the overwhelmingly economic logic of EU integration; second, new political cleavages within the European electorates; and third, the EU’s idiosyncratic institutional architecture. It proceeds to consider how the centre-left can become a more dominant agenda-setter in the EU context, offering concrete ideas and solutions.

Olaf Cramme is director of Policy Network and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics' European Institute. He comments on politics, EU affairs and social democracy on Twitter @olafcramme.


1. Introduction

2. The weakness of social democratic pro-Europeanism

3. EU predicaments in social democratic politics

    3.1 The economic logic of European integration
    3.2 Europe’s political fragmentation
    3.3 Idiosyncrasies of the EU’s institutional architecture

4. Choice and purpose in EU politics

5. The quest for a more assertive and relevant policy agenda

After the Third Way: The Future of Social Democracy in Europe

This paper will appear as a chapter in O. Cramme and P. Diamond (eds), After the Third Way: The Future of Social Democracy in Europe (I.B.Tauris, forthcoming 2012)

The social democratic parties were once the strongest political forces in Europe. Today, however, they appear disorientated and rudderless, crucially lacking the ideological, intellectual and organisational vitality which underpinned their strength in the post-war political landscape. Electorally marginalised, seemingly ideologically exhausted and often out-of-step with the contemporary zeitgeist, European social democracy is currently in profound need of revision and renewal – potentially its very existence as a political force is under threat. This book marks a serious attempt to forge the intellectual backbone of a renewed social democracy fit for the 21st century. Bringing together leading academics, political thinkers and policy experts, it offers a new and original perspective on ideological and policy innovation and will be invaluable reading for anyone interested in the future of social democracy.

Tags: European integration , Social Democracy , Olaf Cramme , Policy Network , global interdependence , centre-left EU policy

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