Peter Taylor-Gooby: “Commodification and  Productivism  in the Welfare State”

Polanyi’s concept of decommodification is often used in accounts of state welfare. From this perspective the past two decades are a period of recommodification across much of Europe, culminating in responses to the Great Recession. This paper returns to Polanyi’s original approach to commodification and decommodification as a ‘double movement’. It discusses how policies which promote the former dominate much current debate, seeks to identify the latter, examines how the two processes no longer march in step in post-industrial capitalism and considers the challenges this poses for those who wish to strengthen decommodification.

Caroline de la Porte: “Solidarity and equality in the European Union: only for good times?”

The presentation will discuss how EU ideas, policies and politics are sensitive to patterns of economic growth and crises. The Great Recession has hit the Eurozone’s soft spot – the interdependent, yet vastly different, economies of its members share a common monetary policy, but maintain separate fiscal policies. In response to this mismatch, the governance of the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) through the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) has been adapted, with the aim of preventing default in the Eurozone and future crises. But what precisely has changed and what has the effect been on welfare states and equality?

The changes to EMU’s governance architecture following the crisis put indirect but strong pressure on welfare states, with an enhanced focus on fiscal consolidation. At the same time as promoting fiscal prudence, the EU is also increasingly pushing for social investment reforms, such as through the ‘Youth Guarantee’ launched in 2013 to deal with the growing issue of youth unemployment. However, the youth guarantee and other social initiatives are far from sufficient to combat the problem. Reforms, especially in the countries hardest hit by the crisis, were in some cases necessary and long overdue to ensure welfare state sustainability. However, they have also in part undermined the welfare state principles of social solidarity – a key feature of European welfare states. At the same time, the richer member states of the European Union are not unequivocally solidary towards those troubled in the context of the recession.

Articles for further reading:

Boundaries of welfare between the EU and member states during the great recession

A new era of European integration

Altered Europeanisation of Pension Reform in the Context if the Great Recession