European economic governance in 2017: a recovery for whom?

Rosalind Cavaghan, Muireann O'Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)
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In 2016, JCMS’s special issue ‘Another Theory is Possible’ argued that both EU Studies and the EU find themselves in need of a re-invigorated, poly-phonic debate which questions the socio-economic power structures and narratives of exclusion potentially embedded in all politics (Manners and Whitman, 2016). In this contribution focusing on the EU’s economic policy, we take up this challenge applying an intersectional lens to review the positive narrative of growth and recovery that the European Commission, amongst others, deployed in 2017. Our analysis shows how EU economic policy plays a key role in establishing gendered and racialised hierarchies in the EU. Additionally, this reveals the gendered and racialised dynamics at the heart of European integration itself. We demonstrate the urgent need for EU studies to take such dynamics seriously in seeking to understand the European Union of 2017 and beyond.

Taking an intersectional, perspective, we problematise who the audience for this positive narrative is and whose economic well-being is understood to ‘count’. As such, we examine the gender constitutive effects of the EU as an economic actor. We explore how European integration is progressing through the establishment of a common economic space (Hoskyns 2008, 108) built through the pursuit of gender-blind and gender-biased economic goals promoted by the EU. This is an EU which ignores women as economic citizens and economic actors. In building this critique of the narratives of the EU’s economic ‘success’ or of ‘the end of the crisis’, we draw on two existing bodies of work: existing critical political economic approaches to EU Integration which have sought to understand the full implications of the shifts in the EU’s economic governance structures, the flexibility and political opportunism of the EU’s economic narrative (Rosamond, 2002; Ryner, 2015; Schmidt, 2016), and Feminist Political Economy critiques which have uncovered ‘strategic silences’ in ‘mainstream’ approaches to macro-economic policy (Picchio, 2015; Schuberth and Young, 2011). These perspectives are united by the way that they shed light on how the EU is (re-) shaping the contours and limits of political arena. As the EU’s institutions seek to portray a break with the crisis and a return to normality, we interrogate this narrative of exiting crisis, arguing that it serves to entrench and continue economic priorities and assumptions established in the heat of the crisis. The narrow economic interests of finance and global markets that were prioritised during the crisis remain dominant in this ‘post-crisis’ moment, presented as universal. The pursuit of these interests does not serve those most impacted by the crisis itself: women and marginalised groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-108
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Early online date23 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • European Union
  • gender
  • economic policies
  • intersectionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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