A Political Bond in Europe
Title: A Political Bond in Europe
Author: WHITE, Jonathan
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2007
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
This thesis explores a new way to conceptualise political community in the contemporary European context. Its point of departure is the normative debate concerning the type of collective bond feasible and desirable as an underpinning for the European Union, a debate centred on the older political-philosophical question of what must be common to a set of people such that they may be ruled through the same institutions. The thesis argues that many of the existing approaches, which conceive a bond in terms of shared interests, cultural attributes, values, or practices of trust and solidarity, are liable either to underplay or to overplay how much the citizens of a polity must have in common, tending either to empty public life of the pursuit of shared ends or conversely to downgrade the importance of adversarialism. Both may be seen as depoliticising moves. Instead, drawing on agonistic theories of democracy and certain strands of political sociology, a more explicitly political conception of the collective bond is explored, based on the appraisal of substantive problems. Political community, it is suggested, should be sought in the common-sense assumptions and taken-for-granted reference-points people invoke when discussing matters of political relevance. The concept of a ‘political bond’, whereby members of the collective are tied by a sense of shared predicament before common problems, is proposed as a normative ideal. This raises questions for empirical study to do with what problems people hold to exist, whom these are assumed to affect, and what possibilities of collective action are recognised for their address. These issues are explored in depth using group discussions with taxidrivers in Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic. Under scrutiny is the extent to which commonplace ways of speaking about the political serve to strengthen a European political bond, and in what respects they run counter to it and would need challenging if a European polity were to have everyday resonance. The analysis indicates that while substantive problems of common concern are readily and richly articulated, and many of them placed in a transnational context, there is notable scepticism about the possibility of their remedy, and unevenness in the degree to which opponents are positioned as legitimate. The thesis argues that only by tackling these wider patterns, which link to the health of contemporary democracy more generally, is it likely to prove possible to build a desirable political community at the European level.
LC Subject Heading: Europe -- Politics and government -- 1989-; Democracy -- Europe
Defence date: 29 November 2007; Examining board: Prof. Peter Wagner, Supervisor, University of Trento and formerly EUI ; Prof. Michèle Lamont, External Co-Supervisor, Harvard University ; Prof. Richard Bellamy, University College London ; Prof. Neil Walker, EUI
Published version: http://hdl.handle.net/1814/23980
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