Conceptualising the EU’s social constituency

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Series Details No.16, 2004
Publication Date 2004
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The EU is often labelled a unique entity. This assertion is more the product of assessments of its institutional character than on the nature of its social constituency, i.e. the structure of demands and expectations that citizens and groups place on the EU. Determining the character of the latter is important both for our understanding of the EU as polity and for the question of the democratic deficit. It is also theoretically interesting given the increased focus on recognition politics, not only in nation-states but also transnationally. The main purpose of this article is to provide a conceptual methodological
framework with a set of structured tests to help ascertain the nature of the EU's social constituency. To this end, a framework has been devised, which combines a philosophical approach to recognition with a sociological approach to contentious politics. Central to this framework is Axel Honneth's notion of 'recognition order', and the article briefly examines whether the EU might be said to make up a unique recognition order. “Recognition” has become a keyword of our time. A venerable category of Hegelian philosophy, recently resuscitated by political theorists, this notion is
proving central to efforts to conceptualize today's struggles over identity and difference Hegel's old figure of “the struggle for recognition” finds new purchase as rapidly globalizing capitalism accelerates transcultural contacts,fracturing interpretative schemata, pluralizing value horizons, and politicizing identities and differences recognition's salience is now indisputable
(Fraser and Honneth, 2003: 1)

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