Social and political consequences of the eastern EU enlargement: the perspective of a critical sociological approach


EU integration
critical theory
East-Central Europe
EU enlargement
neoliberal capitalism


This paper claims that the assessment of the eastern EU enlargement depends on the adopted theoretical perspective. The practitioners of critical approaches in sociology claim that mainstream approaches to European integration suffer from neglect. Critical thinkers provide an alternative account of European integration claiming that it can be conceptualized as enforcement mechanism for the spread of neoliberal capitalism. The eastern EU enlargement should be analyzed on the basis of world-systems theory and post-colonial theory. From this point of view, the post-communist political, social and economic transformations based on the neoliberal economic theory have produced mixed results. Specifically, economic neoliberalism is a flawed economic theory that demonstrated its weakness in the post-2008 period. Transnational capital exploited EU spaces to force a neoliberal agenda on the candidate states by way of conditionality. Narrow sectoral interests took precedence over economic rationality and social policy goals. Hence, the relative failure of post-communist transformations in such domains as: EU cohesion policy, unstable democracies, or demography undermining future economic growth prospects. Moreover, the multidimensional crisis initiated by forcing the neoliberal agenda on the candidate states has initiated adverse social and political developments on EU-wide scale in such domains as anti- immigration backlash and the ascendancy of far-right political parties.


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