European integration processes have resulted in a spatial incongruence between market and social integration. The ensuing differences between central and peripheral EU-countries on the one side, and between elites and ordinary people on the other side, are interpreted as a double dualization of European societies. Taking a sociological perspective on Europeanization processes, we refer to sociological Neo-Institutionalism and Bourdieusian concepts of social fields and spaces to analyse conflicts over material and symbolic resources and their impact on patterns of social inequality.
The case of labour relations provides insights into the preconditions and consequences of asymmetrical European integration processes. Institutional differences of national wage-setting regimes and a ‘one-size-fits-all monetary policy’ of the ECB within the Eurozone have contributed to an increase in macroeconomic and social imbalances. Against the background of the Euro crisis, there has emerged a supranational regime of macroeconomic policy coordination that stands in sharp contrast to transnational initiatives of the Commission to strengthen European social policy and industrial relations (e.g. European social dialogues, European works councils). While the former aims at institutional transformations towards market liberalism, the latter follows the principle of social protection.
In contrast to current comparative political economic and European integration research, which emphasizes vertical power shifts from national to EU levels, a transnational perspective that pictures Europeanization as a society wide process not only restricted to politics, was suggested. This can explain why some actors, such as the European Commission, have been able to enforce their aims surprisingly easy and fast, while collective actors departing from relatively weak power positions are able to challenge orthodox views on European wage-policies only under certain conditions (e.g. support from influential political and/or field-external actors).