Legitimation through integration : explaining the 'new' social democratic turn to Europe
The turn towards European integration by social democratic parties across the European Union has thus far been inadequately explained. Existing explanations are unable to account for the anticipation that traditional social democratic 'market-correcting' policies can be successfully promoted at the EU-level despite the lack of opportunities to do so. This thesis argues that the 'new' social democratic turn to Europe has enabled social democratic parties to retain a degree of ideological continuity despite the necessary retrenchment of social democracy, thereby contributing to the ongoing (yet increasingly problematic) legitimation of social democracy and the continued maintenance of a viable social democratic constituency. The turn to Europe has provided social democratic parties with the possibility of re-regulating 'globalisation' at the supranational level, thereby cohering with the traditional social democratic practice of promoting market-correcting public policy within institutions of representative democracy. However, there exist sizeable institutional obstacles to the implementation of such an agenda which prevent its realisation. Based on a theoretical discussion of the decline of 'traditional' social democracy, the thesis argues that the moderation of 'traditional' social democratic aims was necessary due to the inability to maintain an expansion of redistributive market-correcting regulations within institutions of representative democracy beyond the medium term. The 'new' social democratic turn to Europe enables redistributive market-correcting policies to be promoted, yet not realised, at the EU-level. Moreover, the non-realisation of a social democratic agenda at the European level can be understood in terms of the institutional obstacles to policy implementation at the supranational level, thereby partly obfuscating the failure of 'traditional' social democracy and contributing to its ongoing legitimation. This argument is illustrated through case studies of social democratic parties in the UK, Sweden, France, Spain and Italy, and at the European level.