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.