Topic outline

  • General

    Sociology provides us with a wide-ranging repertoire of heuristic tools for investigating an historical process such as European integration from a variety of perspectives. Using a selection of different approaches, we will be able to reexamine some of the central themes of EU studies in political science, history, economics and legal science (governance, transnational public spheres, democratic legitimacy, public participation) in ways that reveal aspects these disciplines might occlude, by paying attention to the inclusionary and exclusionary effects of social institutions and practices, by focusing on the engagement of ordinary citizens in European integration or the mobilisation of Europe’s civic resources both in European Union decision-making or policymaking and in the construction of a European social space. The course will shift our gaze away from the substantialism that dominates much social science and away from the institutional and regulatory dimensions of European integration towards its processual and performative dimensions, that is: “exploring the EU from the point of view of the people actually producing it [or resisting it] ‘from above' and ‘from below'” (Adler-Nissen 2016: 88).

    We will be interested, in particular, in how actors speak and debate about Europe: how they ‘make’ Europe in ‘talking’ (about) it and what they signify in acting out particular ‘European’ practices and routines. What claims get make about Europe? What principles get invoked to justify positions on Europe? How is definitional power attributed to certain participants and denied to others? What formal and informal procedures govern political discourse in the various arenas in which European integration is performed and what are their politicising or depoliticising implications? How are statistical measures of public opinion made to ‘speak’ in ways that integrate a European space-economy? What effect do actors’ positions in the ‘linguistic market’ of a multilingual entity have on their inclusion or exclusion from governance processes often heralded as ‘open’ or ‘participatory’?

    The structure of the course is as follows. After considering what it means to study Europe sociologically, we will assemble an investigative repertoire from a range of sociological currents (some familiar, other perhaps less so), and then use them to reproblematise recurring normative and empirical debates about European integration, institutional design and the ‘character of the polity’ that the European Union is or should be. The final section of the course consists of three case studies where we can explore the enactment of top-down and bottom-up visions of Europe in specific practices and procedures.

  • 1. How do we study Europe sociologically?

    Reading (select one or two)

    Adler-Nissen, R. (2016) Towards a Practice Turn in EU Studies: The Everyday of European Integration, Journal of Common Market Studies 54(1): 87-103.

    Duchesne, S. (2008) Waiting for a European Identity ... Reflections on the Process of Identification with Europe, Perspectives on European Politics and Society 9(4): 397-410.

    Duchesne, S. et al (2010) Europe between integration and globalisation, Politique européenne 30(1): 67-105.

    Favell, A. & Guiraurdon, V. (2009) The Sociology of the European Union: An Agenda, European Union Politics 10(4): 550-577.

    Gaxie, D. & Rowell, J. (2011) Methodology of the project. In: Gaxie, D., Hubé, N. & Rowell, J. (eds.) Perceptions of Europe. A comparative sociology of European attitudes. Colchester: ECPR Press: 35-50. Available online at:

    Guiraudon, V. (2006) Europe through Europeans' Eyes: Political Sociology and EU Studies, EUSA Newsletter 19(1): 1–7.

  • 2. Europe as institutional field, Europe as social space and process

    Reading (select one or two)

    Ban, C. (2013) Management and Culture in an Enlarged European Commission: From Diversity to Unity? Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Favell, A. (2008) Eurostars and Eurocities: Free Movement and Mobility in an Integrating Europe. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Fligstein, N. (2008) Euroclash. The EU, European Identity, and the Future of Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Georgakakis, D., & Weisbein, J. (2010) From above and from below: A political sociology of European actors, Comparative European Politics 8(1): 93-109.

    • 3. Multiple sociologies of European integration

      Reading (references for slides)

      Della Porta, D. & Caiani, M. (2007) Europeanization from below. Social movements and Europe, Mobilization: An International Quarterly 12(1): 1-20.

      Baisnée, O. (2000) Can political journalism exist at the EU level? Paper presented at the workshop 'Political journalism: new challenges, new practices', ECPR joint sessions, Copenhagen, 14-19 April 2000. Available at:

      Mischi, J. & Weisbein, J. (2004) L'Europe comme cause politique proche? Contestation et promotion de l'intégration communautaire dans l'espace local, Politique européenne 12(1): 84-104.

      Pirat, B. (2007) Oui ou non. Le piège rhétorique du référendum, Mots. Les langages du politique 83: 139-153.

      Doerr, N. (2012) Translating democracy: how activists in the European Social Forum practice multilingual deliberation, European Political Science Review 4(3): 361-384.

    • 4. Sense-making, claims-making and position-taking on Europe

      Reading (references for slides)

      Schünemann, W. (2018) SKAD analysis of European multi-level political debates. In: Keller, R., Hornidge, A.-K. & Schünumann, W. (eds.) The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse. Investigating the Politics of Knowledge and Meaning-making. London & New York: Routledge: 91-111.

      Blokker, P. (2012) A Political Sociology of European Anti-Politics and Dissent, Cambio. Rivista sulla Trasformazioni Sociali 2(4): 17-31.

      Díez Medrano, J. (2009) The public sphere and the European Union's political identity. In: Checkel, J. & Katzenstein, P. (eds.) European Identity. Cambridge University Press: 81-110. Available at:

      Díez Medrano, J., Ciornei, I. & Apaydin, F. (2019) Explaining supranational solidarity. In: Recchi, E. et al, Everyday Europe. Bristol: Policy Press: 137-70.

    • 5. What kind of governance regime is the EU?

      Recommended reading

      Börzel, Tanja A. (2018) Governance Approaches to European Integration. KFG Working Paper Series, No. 84, May 2018, Kolleg-Forschergruppe (KFG) “The Transformative Power of Europe”, Freie Universität Berlin.

      European Commission (2001) European Governance - A White Paper.

      Smith, S. & Dalakioudidou, E. (2009) Contextualising public (e)Participation in the governance of the European Union, European Journal of ePractice 7.

    • 6. The integration of a European public sphere

      Recommended reading

      Eurospheres working paper series (see especially numbers 3 and 9).

      Eriksen, E. (2008) Conceptualising European public spheres: general, segmented and strong publics. In: Fossum, J. & Schlesinger, P. (eds.) The European Union and the public sphere: a communicative space in the making? London: Routledge: 23-43.

    • 7. Mobilising Europe’s civic resources for problem-solving, re-legitimisation and autonomy

      Recommended reading

      Smith, S. (2012) Mobilizing civic resources through e-participation in the European public sphere. Problem-solving, re-legitimizing or decoupling? In: Karolewski, I.P. & Kaina, V. (eds.) Civic Resources and the Future of the European Union. Abingdon: Routledge. [PDF file in resources]

    • 8. Public participation in European integration

      Recommended reading

      Saurugger, S. (2010) The Social Construction of the Participatory Turn: The Emergence of a Norm in the European Union, European Journal of Political Research 49(4): 471–95.

      Tambouris, E., Macintosh, A., Smith, S., Panopoulou, E., Tarabanis, K. & Millard, J. (2012) Understanding eParticipation State of Play in Europe, Information Systems Management, 29:4, 321-330. [PDF in resources]

    • 9. Public opinion in the institutional discourse of European integration

      Recommended reading

      Aldrin, P. (2011) The Eurobarometer and the making of European opinion. In: Gaxie, D., Hube, N. & Rowell, J. (eds.) Perceptions of Europe. A comparative sociology of european attitudes. Colchester: ECPR Press: 17–34.

      Sternberg, C. (2016) Public opinion in the EU institutions' discourses on EU legitimacy from the beginnings of integration to today, Politique Européenne 54: 25-56.

    • 10. Social movements and critical Europeanist discourses

      Recommended reading

      Doerr, N. (2010) Politicizing precarity, Producing Visual Dialogues on Migration: Transnational Public Spaces in Social Movements. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 11(2).

      Haug, C. (2008) Public spheres within movements: challenging the (re)search for a European public sphere. RECON working paper 2008/02.

      Scholl, C. (2013). Europe as contagious space: Cross-border diffusion through EuroMayday and climate justice movements. In: Cox, R. and C. Flesher Fominaya (Eds.) Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. London: Routledge: 127-42.
    • Final exam

      Please choose one of the following essay topics. If you like, you can suggest your own question instead, but you must get it approved by me before you start work on it!

      1. In what sense(s) can a European public opinion be said to exist?
      2. What are the advantages and the difficulties of “exploring the EU from the point of view of the people actually producing it" (Adler-Nissen 2016: 88)?
      3. How is Europe "diffused" in transnational social movement networks? What kind of European integration is performed?
      4. “The Brussels-based European institutions are a relatively autonomous institutional field in which actors deploy specific forms of social, cultural and symbolic capital.” Explain what this means using examples.
      5. How can Europe be studied through the prism of local issues? Give examples and explain what they add to our understanding of European integration.
      6. How and why has the notion of governance been used in the discourse of European policy-makers over the past two decades?
      7. "The European public sphere is a normative concept that adds little to our understanding of European integration processes". Critically assess this claim.
      8. "We need a better understanding of how civic resources like solidarity, trust and sociability are actually experienced by European citizens". Why?
      9. Why has participatory decision-making been a matter of concern for the European Commission in recent decades?

      If you are an MA student, the essay should be around 3 000 words; to include at least 5 references from the course reading list and at least 2 other references not on the reading list.

      If you are a BA student, the essay should be around 2 000 words; to include at least 5 references from the course reading list (and others if you want).

      This assignment counts for 80% of your final grade.

      Deadline: 25 September. Please submit through Moodle.