A Community of Europeans?

A Community of Europeans?: Transnational Identities and Public Spheres

Thomas Risse
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Community of Europeans?
    Book Description:

    In A Community of Europeans?, a thoughtful observer of the ongoing project of European integration evaluates the state of the art about European identity and European public spheres. Thomas Risse argues that integration has had profound and long-term effects on the citizens of EU countries, most of whom now have at least a secondary "European identity" to complement their national identities. Risse also claims that we can see the gradual emergence of transnational European communities of communication.

    Exploring the outlines of this European identity and of the communicative spaces, Risse sheds light on some pressing questions: What do "Europe" and "the EU" mean in the various public debates? How do European identities and transnational public spheres affect policymaking in the EU? And how do they matter in discussions about enlargement, particularly Turkish accession to the EU? What will be the consequences of the growing contestation and politicization of European affairs for European democracy?

    This focus on identity allows Risse to address the "democratic deficit" of the EU, the disparity between the level of decision making over increasingly relevant issues for peoples' lives (at the EU) and the level where politics plays itself out-in the member states. He argues that the EU's democratic deficit can only be tackled through politicization and that "debating Europe" might prove the only way to defend modern and cosmopolitan Europe against the increasingly forceful voices of Euroskepticism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5918-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Thomas Risse
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-16)

    These three quotations capture a range of identity constructions in Europe today. The first is from the preamble to the Lisbon Treaty as signed by the European Union’s Heads of States and Governments on October 19, 2007. It presents the collective identity of the European Union (EU) as understood by its political leaders. It refers to Europe’s cultural heritage, to universal values of human rights and democracy, and to the European past of the cold war. There is also a reference to the religious inheritance of Europe which, however, stops short of mentioning Christianity. In other words, this is the...


    • 1 COLLECTIVE IDENTITIES: Conceptual and Methodological Questions
      (pp. 19-36)

      Identity is not only an elusive concept, it is also essentially contested. It has become so pervasive in the social sciences that Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper concluded in 2000 that “the conceptual and theoretical work ‘identity’ is supposed to do . . . might be done better by other terms, less ambiguous, and unencumbered by the reifying connotations of ‘identity’” (Brubaker and Cooper, 1). Although a different conceptual apparatus will not help avoid the theoretical and methodological pitfalls involved, Brubaker and Cooper are right that we need a clear understanding of what we mean by “identity” and how we...

    • 2 MULTIPLE EUROPES: The Europeanization of Citizens’ Identities
      (pp. 37-62)

      Is there an emerging European identity, and if so, does it replace, coexist with, or otherwise interact with various multiple identities of individuals? What is the substantive content of this European identity, how contested is it, and how much loyalty do people feel toward the EU? Do citizens differentiate between Europe and the EU in their identification processes? How “real” is Europe in people’s minds?

      This chapter focuses on ordinary citizens, while chapter 3 concentrates on elites. I summarize findings from a variety of disciplines and methodologies. Political scientists, sociologists, social psychologists, linguists, and others have used such diverse research...

    • 3 MODERN EUROPE AND ITS DISCONTENTS: The Europeanization of Elite Identities
      (pp. 63-86)

      The previous chapter argued that European citizens are increasingly divided between those who identify with Europe at least to some extent (“inclusive nationalists”) and those who exclusively identify with their nation-state (“exclusive nationalists”). In parallel to this cleavage, two distinct narratives concerning European identity exist. One discourse views Europe and the EU in modern terms as a product of enlightenment and modernity, while the other constructs a xenophobic, closed, and nationalist Europe. But who is doing the constructing? Political elites as well as intellectuals are primarily responsible for developing narratives linking national histories, memories, and symbols to European history, memory,...

      (pp. 87-104)

      Chapters 2 and 3 have described the Europeanization of elite and mass identities. In a nutshell, I have argued that we can observe (1) the emergence of Europeanized identities in a plurality of mass public opinion across Europe, if only as secondary identities (“European identity lite”); (2) the Europeanization of national identities in various elite discourses whereby Europe and the EU become intertwined and amalgamated in the various national identity narratives (the “marble cake” model); and (3) two visions of Europe noticeable in both the elite discourses and in mass public opinion, namely the “sacred” identity of a modern, liberal,...


    • 5 TRANSNATIONAL PUBLIC SPHERES: Conceptual Questions
      (pp. 107-126)

      Part 1 of this book has explored the Europeanization of national identities at the levels of elite and mass opinion. In particular, I have argued that we see the emergence of collective identification with Europe as a secondary identity on the level of mass public opinion and the differential Europeanization of national identities in the elite discourses in the sense of intertwined national and European identities. Two visions of Europe are observable on either level of mass public opinion and elite discourses, namely a liberal Europe embodying the values of modernity and enlightenment, and a more traditional and exclusionary “nationalist...

      (pp. 127-156)

      The previous chapter addressed conceptual questions pertaining to the Europeanization of public spheres and developed criteria to measure the degree to which we can observe a Europeanization of public spheres. Chapters 6 and 7 use these criteria to survey the empirical evidence and to answer the question of to what extent public spheres are becoming Europeanized and a transnational community of communication is emerging. First, I discuss data pertaining to the visibility of EU affairs in the media as compared to national and other issues. Second, I comment on the degree to which issue cycles have become similar over time....

      (pp. 157-174)

      Visibility, similar issue cycles, and converging frames of reference are certainly necessary ingredients for a transnational public sphere because they enable cross-border communication in the first place. But they are not sufficient, since a lively public sphere requires that this communication actually takes place. A community of communication through Europeanized public spheres emerges if and when “foreigners” are no longer treated as such, but actively participate in debates about issues of common concern. This chapter uses the indicators developed in chapter 5 to explore the empirical evidence. I claim that we can see a community of communication in the making,...


    • 8 “DEEPENING”: European Institution-Building
      (pp. 177-203)

      So far, I have argued in this book that, first, we can observe the—albeit uneven—Europeanization of collective identities across Europe both at the level of mass public opinion and among the elites and that these identities usually go together with other loyalties that people feel toward their national, local, or other communities. Second, at least two major identity constructions compete with each other in both elite and popular discourses, namely a “modern, enlightened, and secular Europe,” on the one hand, and a traditional, introverted, and “nationalist fortress Europe,” on the other hand. Third, we can observe the gradual...

    • 9 “WIDENING”: EU Enlargement and Contested Identities
      (pp. 204-225)

      The previous chapter discussed the impact of identity politics on European institution-building. “Deepening” is about what constitutes the EU as a polity and, thus, as an object of identification. It concerns the differentia specifica of the EU. Debates about “widening,” that is, accepting new members into the union, are different. “Widening” and enlargement are about drawing the boundaries of the community. It concerns the question who is “in” and who is “out,” and who can legitimately claim to be member of the community. Two issues have to be discussed in this context. The first question concerns opening the EU to...

      (pp. 226-242)

      The last two chapters dealt with the effects of Europeanized identities and public spheres on basic features of the European Union, namely constitutionalization (“deepening”) and enlargement (“widening”). But one of the most important reasons that we should care about identities and public spheres (Öffentlichkeit) in the first place is because of concerns about democracy. Democratic theory holds that a democratic polity without a demos, without a shared sense of community among the people, is probably not viable. A polity without a demos lacks the diffuse support of the citizens for the political institutions, which is deemed necessary to generate compliance...

    (pp. 243-252)

    These are three quotes from an Internet chat held one week before the European elections in June 2009 in response to a German TV broadcast on the EU. They pretty much sum up the range of voices of ordinary citizens in Europe today. Anton43 stands for the vision of modern and enlightened Europe that has overcome the ghosts of the past. Tom0464 expresses the widespread notion that the wealthy member states have to pay the price for EU enlargement, while Conni66 demonstrates the Euroskepticism of the losers from globalization and Europeanization. In this particular case, it is the perception of...

  11. References
    (pp. 253-276)
  12. Index
    (pp. 277-288)