The Socio-Histoire of Europeanization.

Social Policy, Equal Treatment and Public Service in the Maelstrom of European Norms

Concepts such as society or a community based on mutual support and legal categories such as sovereignty or equal treatment are historically and conceptually related to the development of the nation-state. They situate policy options action and problem definitions within a national framework. However, the Europeanization of societal relations and political processes leads to other policy options and problem definitions. This is evident in today’s controversies about policies aimed at mitigating social difference, implementing European principles of equal treatment, or providing public goods and services. Europeanization calls for a redefinition of notions and categories that take into account the genesis and effects of policy options and problem definitions that are anchored in the nation-state.

Research on Europe faces a challenge. It must study present-day European shifts in expertise and norms in a perspective of longue durée and examine Europeanization in the context of historical controversies at the local, regional, and national levels. The project will explore this topic by focusing on social policy, the application of the legal principle of equal treatment and the provision of public services. The project will be realized by a working group comprising sociologists, historians, political scientists, and legal scholars from various academic institutions. The working group aims to contribute to the development of concepts for the analysis of Europeanization that are informed by social history. Its members will meet five times at three-month intervals at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. The project is headed and coordinated by Monika Eigmüller (University of Leipzig) and Nikola Tietze (Hamburg Institute for Social Research).

The socio-histoire approach

The starting point of the project is the socio-histoire approach, which emerged in France at the end of the 1980s in a dialogue between historiography, sociology, and political science, an approach which so far has hardly been discussed in Germany. Based on micro-perspective investigations, socio-histoire focuses on the centers of power and addresses the controversies, negotiation processes, and settings of social and political uncertainty. This approach shows how ideas and their semantics become guidelines for action or political decision-making criteria in societal conflicts. Thus the concepts, methods, and tools of socio-histoire lend themselves to advancing research on Europe that addresses issues related to the sociology of action.

 Research questions

The objective of the working group is to study the transformations that various governmental and non-governmental actors initiate at the local, regional, national, and European levels within the framework of controversies over social policy, equal treatment, and public services.

The following issues are central to the discussion:

  • Which rationales and norms for action are used in selected historical constellations of social policy, the implementation of equal treatment, and the provision of public goods?
  • Which problem definitions and categorizations characterize the selected historical constellations under consideration?
  • How do problem definitions, categories, rationales, and norms relate to the development of social relationships or societal interactions?
  • Which other courses and levels of action result for the examples selected when competences and norms are assigned or shifted by social policy, the enforcement of equal treatment, or the provision of public goods? Which specific spheres of action emerge due to attributions of competence and the standardization of norms?
  • With which group formations and institutionalizations are the historical constellations of social policy, the enforcement of equal treatment, and the guarantee of public goods associated?
  • Which conclusions can be drawn about the development of European societal relations and the Europeanization of political processes from the genesis and transformation of the rationales and norms of action in social policy, the enforcement of equal treatment, and the provision of public goods?
  • What are the prospects and limitations of analogies between the past and the present, and what kind of diachronic approach is needed to meet the specific methodological and theoretical demands of social research on Europe?