Mapping the political discourse of globalisation and European integration in the United Kingdom and Ireland empirically


Nicola Smith, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK. E-mail:


Abstract.  Recent years have seen growing interest in the political power of ideas, especially in debates about globalisation and European integration. As is now widely noted, constructions of globalisation and European integration may play a powerful causal role in shaping policy prescriptions across Europe. Yet, while a substantial body of theoretical literature has pointed to the need for sustained empirical analysis of such discourses, little systematic and comparative analysis has been undertaken into policy makers' attitudes towards globalisation, European integration and the relationship between the two. This article presents the initial findings of a survey of elite political attitudes to globalisation and European integration in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The authors develop and apply a theoretical schema for the classification and mapping of such discourses. Their analysis reveals, on the one hand, the range and diversity of discourses of globalisation and European integration among elite political actors and, on the other, the continued prevalence of specific conceptions (and indeed misperceptions) of globalisation in particular that have now been challenged empirically. They identify a series of core tensions and contradictions within elite political discourse in both the United Kingdom and Ireland. This suggests a certain frailty in the prevalent understanding of globalisation to which elite political actors would otherwise seem committed when confronted with its distributive consequences.