Amparo Serrano Maarten Keune Eduardo Crespo

The paradoxical ways of naming employment by European institutions during the crisis: The weakening of collective frames

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In this paper, we analyse the changing discourse of the EU institutions, and in particular the European Commission, concerning work, unemployment and worker vulnerability. In particular, we discuss two key elements of the recent discursive approach of the EU institutions: the entrepreneurship approach and the discursive shift towards questioning the value of collective labour relations. We argue that these two elements contribute to a transformation of the representations and regulations of work in Europe through a discourse that fosters the individualization and depoliticisation of work and delegitimises social rights and collective labour practices. We show that an important rhetorical strategy utilized in the EU discourse is the paradox: it evokes key and uncontested values (autonomy, empowerment, freedom) at the same time as it acts in a way that runs counter to them. The principal paradox of European discourse on social policy is achieved by the reduction of social explanation - and intervention - to individual or economic terms. The paradoxical nature of this discourse poses a great obstacle to again rename and problematize the world of work as currently presented from a neoliberal perspective.


  • Public Policy
  • Collective Bargaining
  • Entrepreneurship Policy
  • European Economic and Social Integration
  • Public Goods
  • European Social Model
  • General Welfare
  • Wellbeing


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