Giddens in Brussels

Today, Anthony Giddens promoted his new book in Brussels. It is called “Europe in the Global Age” and it is about the “European Social Model”. Before I go into details, I need to stress the fact that I have not read the book and I also do not have the intention to do so. Not because of the fact that I don’t think Giddens is a good writer but I have the feeling (after his presentation) that it offers no new insights into the topic. Giddens offered some nice catch phrases about social justice and economic efficiency but no groundbreaking research results.

He started off calling the EU “a gigantic learning machine” that has various ‘social models’ that obviously learn from each other. The major problem of the European social model (that does not exist in this sense) is not, as commonly argued, globalisation but rather an aging society and the development of a knowledge – based – service – society. According to Giddens there are only best practices but no best models. A society is sustainable only if it manages to do structural reforms to address the challenges of the future. After two years of research he came to the conclusion that three points are essential for a country to be successful in the 21st century:

1. competitiveness has nothing to do with the promotion of low tax regimes

2. social justice and a high level of employment are also important

3. “women and children and young families first”

In the second part of the lecture he stressed the fact that the Lisbon agenda of the EU is “weak on social justice” compared with the economic efficiency/ competitiveness rhetoric. Even though many countries that have pursued policies in the Lisbon agenda style succeeded, Giddens warned that the winners from today might be tomorrows loosers because they might forget about the importance of “social justice”. But we should not think in old patterns here: “The people that are poor today are different from the people that were poor 30 years ago.” Commenting on the current state of the EU, Giddens stressed the fact that we should not be too pessimistic and that the EU is in a much better condition than people think.

All in all, nothing new. And be honest: would you buy the book?

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