The EU Transformation of Social Market Economy

The paper develops five interconnected claims: 1) the appropriation of the principle of social market economy by the European Union has not generated a pan-European social market economy 2) the incorporation of this principle contributes to a socially-minded recalibration of previous EU regulatory strategies and enables the expansion of EU powers in the social sphere 3) this process nourishes a tension between EU recalibrated policies aiming at the transformation of national social market economies and national actors resisting this policy agenda 4) the legitimacy of the transformative agenda of the EU is called into question 5) in the current political and economic circumstances, the Union should reconsider its approach to the social: rather than promoting a pan-European social market economy, it should pursue a more modest agenda aimed at strengthening national social market economies in the circumstances of economic interdependence.

The forgotten alternative: Ancient political thought

Goldoni’s and Wilkinson’s “material constitution” offers one of the most elaborate alternatives to the constitutional normativism of our time. It is sociologically rich and pays heed to the economic forces underpinning a constitutional regime. Yet, along with other “sociological” and “political” approaches to constitutionalism it does not take into account that modern constitutional law emerges as an alternative to explaining political authority with reference to the groups composing the body politic. This alternative is manifest, among other things, in the centrality attributed to the “mixed constitution” in the republican tradition. It will be argued that this tradition provides us with a politically more feasible, i.e. more “practical”, alternative to constitutional normativism than the “material constitution”, which speaks more to the constitutional theorist than to citizens and political activists.

The Material Constitution of the Euro and Emergency Measures

An accepted narrative on the Euro crisis postulates that it offered the chance to transform the EU material constitution via emergency powers. This paper tries to advocate the opposite: emergency actions were required in order to address and contain the negative and destabilizing effects generated by the contradictions afflicting the governance of the Euro. In the first part, we will briefly outline the idea of the material constitution; in the second part, we will reconstruct the main tenets of the material constitution of the Euro-zone and, in the third part, we will show how the measures adopted by the EU and the Member States to address the crisis were utterly functional to its political economy. Finally, we will claim that emergency actions represented a consolidation, rather than a transformation, of the material constitution.