The Road to Social Europe: A Contemporary Approach to Political Cultures and Diversity in Europe, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Road to Social Europe

A Contemporary Approach to Political Cultures and Diversity in Europe, 1st Edition

By Jean-Claude Barbier


222 pages

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In the wake of the Greek and Irish crises, and at a moment when solidarity between states is hotly debated on a daily basis at EU level, it is important to understand how ‘solidarity’ can happen at all. The Road to Social Europe reviews the development of political cultural processes since the nineteenth century, showing how social protection and social justice have gradually become interwoven with systems of social protection, or welfare states.

Grounded on extensive empirical research conducted in many EU countries and in the European Commission’s administration over twenty years, the book provides a cultural analysis of welfare systems in Europe. It also presents an original enquiry into the importance of languages for politics in Europe, for the politics of welfare, and for sociological research. It shows how sociological and ethnographic analysis can help in understanding the current and future challenges of European integration that rely unilaterally on functional economics.

This in-depth sociological analysis of European diversity will appeal to a wide audience of students and scholars of sociology, political science, political economy and European studies.


"Barbier's arguments really encourage the hope that Europe will one day be the finest place for “living well together”. His book is a success because it sketches the framework of a tangible utopia." - by Michel Lallement, La Vie des idées, March 2013.

“Barbier’s analysis provides a welcome counterbalance to the ‘varieties of capitalism’ literature and the Hofstedian view of culture, both of which encourage reductionism and determinism in theorizing these issues. His subtle examination of the notions of culture and language remind us of their uniqueness and embeddedness in complex, historical trajectories. In doing so, he also highlights the (very) long-term nature of the European social project, and in my view we should not be too hasty in abandoning political resolve in winning the arguments for greater social integration. His book should appeal to anyone — academic or practitioner — interested in the future of the EU.”Michael Gold, British Journal of Industrial Relations

Table of Contents

Preface to the English Edition. Preface to the French Edition. Introduction. Part I: Social Protection In Europe: National and/or European? 1. National Social Protection Systems at the Core of State Legitimacy 2. The Nation and Social Protection: Practices and Subjectivities 3. Fifty Years of Social Europe (1957–2007): A Realistic Appraisal Part II: Towards a Sociological Understanding of Cultural Diversity In Europe 4. Cultural Diversity: A Blind Spot? 5. Transcending the Quarrel between Universalism and Culturalism 6. The Ethical Principles Governing Cross-National Comparison Part III: Political Cultures and European Integration 7. The Collective "Imaginary", Language and Politics 8. A New Start for Social Europe: Giving Priority to Languages. Conclusion and 2012 Postscript. References. Index

About the Author

Jean-Claude Barbier is CNRS Research Director at Paris1 Panteon-Sorbonne University, France. His research interests include European integration, EU social policy, and employment policies in Europe and the USA.

About the Series

Studies in European Sociology

Europe is currently undergoing massive change. In the former Eastern Europe, societies are adapting to post-communist regimes and economies and facing the implications of war in the Balkans. In the west the increased integration of the European Union impacts on every aspect of legal, economic and political life. The whole of Europe is going through major transformations in terms of gender, race and class. This series published by Routledge with the European Sociological Association, provides a forum for sociological responses to these developments.    

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General