Why Multilingualism and Multilingual Communication Jeopardize a Common Social Policy for Europe

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Abstract

This paper studies the consequences of European multilingualism and multilingual communication for a common social policy in the Europe Union. In the past fifty years, the main focus of the Europeanization project has been on financial-economic developments and less on a common social policy. Even today, there is no common framework for social protection in the European Union. Common minimum income or wages for European citizens are lacking. In this paper, it will be argued that the lack of social protection has to do with Europe’s linguistic diversity. Language is seen as a building block of national communities and their political cultures. The European integration project can only continue if different European political cultures are shared. However, due to the fact that a neutral lingua franca is lacking, this has been unsuccessful so far. The interaction of social groups that have a different language repertoire with the structures of multilevel governance are responsible for the fact that some of these social groups, including the ‘Eurostars’, and national cosmopolitans benefit from social protection, whereas other groups lacking relevant language skills, such as anti-establishment forces, commoners, and migrants, are excluded from the European power domains. These power configurations can be fruitfully studied in the floral figuration model. Consequently, due to these patterns of inclusion and exclusion, true solidarity among European citizens is not within reach. These claims will be illustrated by a case study on the Netherlands, a country that has been pursuing neoliberal policies counterbalancing Eurozone and economic crises and is trying to assimilate migrants and other newcomers. Apart from assimilatory policies targeting migrants, language games used by competing forces are playing an important role in the discourse in order to set up power structures.

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