9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Europe, Europeanization and Civil Society Building I, 2E9

Cultural Others in European Integration. A Sociological Perspective on New Modes of Governance, the European Commission, and European Civil Society

This paper contributes to the development of a political sociology of European Integration. It starts from the assumption that amidst the great variety of political science research sociology can make a genuine contribution if it draws on its rich theoretical traditions. In this spirit I analyse the activities of European Commission and European-level civil society actors in the area of social inclusion policy with a theoretical framework that combines Pierre Bourdieu's field analysis and John W. Meyer's World Polity approach (section 1). This perspective unveils new facets of the voluntary learning process between Member States called Open Method of Coordination (OMC). Instead of focussing on learning incentives and on problems of sanctions (as in orthodoxy of political analysis) the sociological approach puts the coordination procedure in a global context. It holds that the OMC transmits and amplifies World Polity content for EU Member States. The general principles of "equity" and "progress" are translated into concrete expectations triggering in particular the expansion of normative individual entitlements (section 2). Moreover, the OMC gives rise to a policy field, which attracts a great variety of actors from the European Commission to specialised civil society organisations such as the Federation of Homelessness in Europe (FEANTSA), the Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) or Eurochild. As these actors engage in the policy field they show different (discursive and network) patterns of activity that can be grouped into five different strategies: conceptual entrepreneurship, knowledge production, fundamental criticism, detached observation and robust action (section 3). The sociological point here is that - to a greater or lesser degree - all strategies are eligible to symbolic effects as they interpret and spread World Polity ideas. Hence, civil society and European Commission can and do use the OMC as a means to appear as disinterested counsellors of Member States instead of as interested lobbyists in the multi-tiered system. In John W. Meyer terms we can say that these actors display features of Cultural Others (section 4).
The paper builds upon a qualitative network analysis and a qualitative content analysis. It presents results from my Ph.D., which I completed in December 2008.