The social dimension of the European union: A new type of welfare system?

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This article develops a policy-oriented, explanatory, meso-analysis of the configurative aspects of the social dimension of the European Union (EU). In the first part (sections 1-2), the central elements of the analytical framework are set out. Social policy is conceptualized in terms of its substantive boundaries and normative foundations. Then, the distinct structures, contents and policy types of the welfare systems - at national and EU levels - are outlined against the background of their respective contextual determinant factors. In the second part (sections 3-5) the analytical framework is further developed. First, the article assesses the impact of cross-national welfare heterogeneity upon the levels and nature of European social policy integration (the territorial cleavage). Second, the content of the EU welfare system (the substantive cleavage) is analysed on the basis of the degree of translation of a limited set of partly conflicting goals into actual policy initiatives. Finally, the extent to which an intergovernmental logic prevails over a neo-federal state-building perspective, within the social decision framework of the EU, is considered as the key variable which helps to explain both the external boundaries of the social dimension (its policy structure) and its internal balance of policy types and instruments. © 1996 Routledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-230
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • European integration
  • Social policy
  • Welfare state


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