The Economic System and Social Justice

Without a social dimension, European and (global) governance processes will be confronted with serious problems of social acceptance. Structural unemployment, fiscal discipline required by the Economic and Monetary Union and the global financial markets assert adjustment pressure on the national welfare state systems. Though being integrated into the Single Market, the new EU Member States possess only weak welfare state mechanisms. In sum, the question arises how the future of social rights and of a social constitution linked to them may be conceptualised in the European and transnational constellation. 

The latest developments within the EU, but also the structure and basic principles of transnational institutions like the WTO or the IMF, suggest a free market paradigm of the rule of law, which attaches more value to economic freedoms than to social and human rights standards. The jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice in the Laval, Viking and Rüffert cases has confirmed this orientation: Instead of backing a conflict-of-laws solution capable of articulating and mediating the tensions between the liberal economic constitution and the social constitution in Europe, the ECJ regularly assigns priority to the former. With the economic and financial crisis, however, the project of a disembedded global trading system increasingly faces a legitimacy crisis. Hence, the question is now how to shape a democratic-social re-embedding according to a post-neoliberal agenda for the transnational economic and social constitution and a transnational conflict-of-laws system.