Back to the ‘Future of Europe’: a political sociology of EU Constitutional saga

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Series Details No.33,2008
Publication Date 2008
ISSN 1028-3625
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Looking back at eight years of controversies over Europe’s future, this paper develops a new research agenda towards a political sociology of EU constitutional politics. As a preliminary step, we make the case for reflexivity, that is, for a critical appraisal of intellectual practice in the constitutional debate. Two research directions are then explored: an analysis of the changing forms of the “European public sphere”; a study of the “field of EU constitutional reform”. As a polity, Europe is not a social continuum, but a mosaic of fragmented public spheres and social fields that, albeit undoubtedly interdependent, are largely autonomous from one another. In this configuration, informal scenes of power are as much important as institutional centres of command to set the agenda, promote new ideas and mediate contending interests. We therefore argue that a better understanding of both the European public sphere and the field of EU constitutional reform implies moving the research agenda from analyzing institutions to studying informal cross-sectorial arenas and trans-national networks, as well as the social and professional profiles of the agents making up these institutions, arenas and networks.

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