Caution: European Narrative. Handle with Care

June 26, 2017

This is an interesting lecture by the political economist Professor Wolfgang Streeck from the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany, entitled “Caution: European Narrative. Handle with Care”. The main topic of the lecture is how can one construct a unifying narrative that defines Europe. This is not an academic question. If the EU were to evolve into a functioning transnational democracy, a democracy robust enough that it would be prudent to give it significant powers of taxation and responsibility for delivering a social Europe, then it would require as a prerequisite the construction of a European Demos. Currently there is no such European Demos and hence there is no chance of successfully democratising the EU as it currently exists. If a pan-European Demos were to be constructed then central to it would be the construction of a unifying narrative of what Europe is and where it came from. These are exactly the sorts of narratives of national origin and definition that have been successfully constructed over many decades in any successful nation state, and are one of the main building blocks of the national Demos.

The meaty bit of the lecture starts at around 8.32 but the whole thing is worth watching. Streek also makes the point, worth repeating as often as possible, that the EU is not the same as Europe, that there exists a non-EU Europe, that there can be a non-EU European project and that opposing or criticising the EU as an existing political project and system of institutions does not mean that one is opposed to ‘Europe’.

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