This paper proposes a conceptualization of social dumping and applies it to an analysis of the EU integration process. Building on recent contributions in the fields of economic theory, economic sociology and institutional political economy, it defines social dumping as the practice, undertaken by self-interested market participants, of undermining or evading existing social regulations with the aim of gaining a competitive advantage. The paper also argues that the social dumping practices of market actors are encouraged by policy initiatives of liberalization and deregulation.
To illustrate this point, it shows how two major European integration projects ? the creation of the Internal Market, and EU enlargement to the east and to the south ? have made social dumping more pertinent by providing market participants with new strategic opportunities to contest social norms.