The European Union has established an ‘open method of coordination’ (OMC) among the member states as a means of pursuing economic and employment growth coupled with greater social cohesion. The paper analyses the assumptions underlying this strategy, the manner of its operation and its implications for policy learning and for governance. It argues that the OMC has in substantial measure been inspired by the experience of EMU, but that this is a perilous paradigm on which to base social benchmarking and the OMC. Second, it argues that the dynamic development of the OMC will depend crucially on the extent of public involvement in scrutinizing the policy areas which political leaders choose for benchmarking, the best practices which they identify in other member states, and the efforts which they then make to improve national performance. The conclusion is that the OMC is likely to have substantial implications for domestic and European governance, but that these could vary depending on the manner of its implementation. Finally, the paper considers the implications of the analysis for the broader theoretical literature.