From Common Market to Social Europe? : Paradigm Shift and Institutional Change in European Union Policy on Food, Asbestos & Chemicals, and Gender Equality

Abstract: This dissertation takes up developments in European Union policymaking that indicate important shifts from an emphasis on prioritizing markets and economic arrangements to a greater recognition and competing prioritization of what can be broadly characterized as "social" concerns. Potentially sweeping changes are taking place in EU policy in the areas of food safety, chemicals, and gender equality. Each is being substantially guided, even driven by concerns for public health, sustainability, and basic rights defined in terms of their social consequences. Such a socially defined agenda is increasingly important in European Union policymaking. This dissertation investigates these developments through case studies - based on interviews and original documents, as well as secondary literature - in three otherwise quite different policy sectors: the transformation of EU food policy from its focus on food as primarily a market commodity to taking into consideration and prioritizing public health and consumer safety concerns; EU chemicals policy and the banning of asbestos in Europe; the development of gender equality as an EU goal and the emergence of domestic violence as an EU policy concern. The concepts of public policy paradigm - and paradigm shifts - are employed as theoretical tools to specify, analyze and understand: 1) the priority ordering of guiding principles and institutional arrangements for defining and creating public policy, 2) public problem definitions and attributed causes, 3) the classes of social actors who are deemed authoritative, credible, and responsible for the amelioration of such problems, 4) the choice and formation of institutional strategies and definitions of appropriate means for problem solving, and more broadly, 5) the ways in which competing compelxes of leading ideas influence the choice and formation of institutional strategies. A paradigm shift in this perspective entails changes in one or more of the core dimensions of a paradigm. Such shifts also typically result in pressures to restructure institutional arrangements to make them consistent with a new paradigm. The cases examined here illustrate varying stages in an ongoing interplay between policy paradigms, actors, and institutional arrangements. The dissertation concludes that paradigmatic shifts have taken place in the three policy sectors examined, and that institutionalization is in varying phases of development.