There is a growing acceptance in the literature of a potentially significant causal role for ideas about globalization in shaping the trajectory of policy and institutional reform in contemporary Europe. Yet we still know remarkably little about policy-makers' understandings of globalization, save those they choose to declare publicly. This paper contributes to the important task of operationalizing empirically this key set of ideational variables. Using factor analysis of new survey data collected by the authors it maps and compares UK and Irish policy-maker's understandings of, and orientations towards, globalization. The analysis reveals considerable similarities in the ordering of assumptions and attitudes towards globalization between the two country cases and between civil servants and parliamentarians. Yet it also shows some subtle and intriguing differences between policy-makers' responses in the UK and Ireland and between elected and unelected officials. Intriguingly, it also suggests a significant disparity between politicians' private understandings and public discourses of globalization, with the former less necessitarian in tone than the latter. Above all, it suggests that Anglophone globalization discourse in Europe is principally structured in terms of a number of dimensions which relate to the acceptance or rejection of a series of core neoliberal premises. In effect, the terms and internal architecture of globalization discourse in the UK and Ireland are defined by neoliberal assumptions, to the extent that they provide the core point of reference and orientation for even the most sceptical and critical of views.
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Document Type: Research Article
Colin Hay is in the Department of Politics, The University of Sheffield.
Nicola Jo-Anne Smith is in the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Birmingham University.
December 1, 2010