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What implications does the evidence that recent European integration creates socially distinct winners and losers have for its dynamics and possible outcomes?

What implications does the evidence that recent European integration creates socially distinct winners and losers have for its dynamics and possible outcomes?

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Daniela Bachmann. Originally submitted for Political Change at University College Dublin, with lecturer Paul Gillespie in the category of International Relations & Politics
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Daniela Bachmann. Originally submitted for Political Change at University College Dublin, with lecturer Paul Gillespie in the category of International Relations & Politics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
What implications does the evidence that recent European integration creates sociallydistinct winners and losers have for its dynamics and possible outcomes?IntroductionThe recent economic crisis has caused many to start asking themselves whether theEuropean Union and especially the common currency were such a good idea.Because of it, the Irish people now face a huge mountain of debt which they will berepaying for years to come through no fault of their own. At the other end of thespectrum, Germans are faced with the prospect of having to work until a later age inorder to provide the funds to support the Irish economy and stabilize the commoncurrency. Looking at it from a purely economic perspective it is hard to see where thewinners are, or indeed if there are any. The feeling of losing in the process of European integration might prompt many individuals to question whether theintegration should be taken further. In order to address the issue of winners and losersof European integration, this essay will firstly outline who the winners and losers are.Secondly, the essay will look at social stratification as part of the issue and then go onto look at the problems individuals have to face as part of European integration andwhat it means to their identity formation. Fourthly, the essay will attempt to showsome of the implications the creation of winners and losers has on Europeanintegration.Who are the winners and losers?The concept of winners and losers can be found at various levels. Some economistslist whole sectors of business such as ‘agriculture and food’ as ‘clear losers’ (Wood,2003:296), whereas sociologists tend to focus on individuals. For the purpose of thisessay, when referring to winners and losers the focus will be on the individual. Thelosers are mostly categorized as people with lower levels of education (primary andsecondary but rarely tertiary), who do not speak more than one language. Winnersthen would be people with higher levels of education, who are bi- or multi-lingual,and thus can interact with people from other European countries. The so-calledwinners would be people who are ready and able to adopt multiple identities. ‘People,who tend to think of themselves as European represent the more privileged membersof society, while people who tend to think of themselves as mainly national in identitytend to be less privileged’ (Fligstein, 2009:137). Fligstein argues that only some people are thinking of themselves in terms of multiple identities. ’I propose that the1
 
main source of such an identity is the opportunity to positively interact on a regular  basis with people form other European countries with whom one has a basis for solidarity’ (Fligstein in Checkel and Katzenstein, 2009:133). He further argues thatthese interactions are usually between people of the same social class, for examplemiddle-class management. This is then one of the traits which is shared and used ascommon ground. This supports the argument that the individuals who lack thisinteraction have a disadvantage and thus are more likely to be on the losing side.According to Fligstein (2009: 137), older people and blue-collar working class peopleare less likely to form these bonds because they lack the means or the interest to traveland thus lack the exposure to their European counterparts. So these people would beconsidered to be among the losers, because they lack the means of formingadvantageous links to other nationalities within Europe. An important point to takeinto consideration however, is the perception of people themselves: ‘…ascribingwinner status on the basis of demographic characteristics will remain at best one stepremoved from individual perceptions and at worst an imprecise and inaccurate systemof extrapolation’ (Tucker et all, 2002:559). In other words, while their socioeconomic status might label someone as a winner, it does not mean that they seethemselves as winners in the process of European integration. Just because one cansee that there are commonalities between one’s own and other nationalities, does notmean that one is more likely to identify with a common European identity. Havingsaid that, Tucker et all researched the level of support for European integration on the basis of people’s self-assessment as either winners or losers, thus substantiating the basic argument that winners are more likely to support European integration.Social class as one indicator Because European integration seems to benefit the same people who are already partof the elites within their own countries, the logical assumption is that the split intowinners and losers follows class lines. Fligstein (2009) argue that one of the reasonsmostly middle-class citizens tend to think of themselves as European is that it benefited them materially:’…their speaking second languages and travelling abroad isnot a cause of their identity, but an effect of their material interests’ (2009:146). Onthat basis it can be argued that winners and losers are socially stratified. As moremiddle-class citizens tend to be winners than lower-class citizens, it can be argued2
 
that European integration reinforces class divisions. Tucker at all (2002) found that people with higher levels of education are more likely to see themselves as winners,thus supporting European integration, which in turn will benefit them more than itwould people with lower levels of education. Medrano (2010) is researching the areaof European social groups and social stratification on a European level. He arguesthat any person, who has friendship ties outside their national boundaries, can beclassified as a part of a European social class. Medrano argues that the Europeanmiddle-class is by far larger than the European lower-class (2010: 16), thussubstantiating the argument that socially privileged individuals also fare better at aEuropean level. Taking this argument one step further, European integration thenseems to further deepen the gap between the rich and the poor on a trans-nationallevel. Even though there is a large European middle-class according to Medrano, itcan be argued that these individuals might not be among the winners or indeed not seethemselves as winners of European integration. While middle-class individuals aremore likely to profit from integration and develop multiple identities, this does notmean that they will indeed support integration. Fligstein (2009) stated that their material interests are part of the reason for middle-class individuals to see themselvesas European. Thus it would follow that this is only true for as long as Europeanintegration serves their material interests. Arguably, while social class plays a role indetermining who the winners and losers are, the multiple identities formed throughinteraction by mostly the middle-class do not seem to be permanent yet. Theiler terms this perceived ability of a community, in this case the European middle-class, tosurvive ‘societal security’ (2003:251), and in this case societal security seems to below.What is the effect on individuals?Even though the educated, multi-lingual individuals are considered to be among thewinners in European integration, they do have to pay a price for it. Because of thefree movement of people and businesses, many multi-lingual individuals have toconsider moving to another EU country in order to find work. While they do arguablyhave better prospects at finding work than less educated individuals without a secondlanguage, they have to move at a cost to their affective systems. Many will move for a short while, usually for a year or two, leaving behind friends and families, thusleaving behind their support structures. They will need to integrate into another 3

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