L’Union Européenne: l’unité de deux ardillon–

The European Union: an entity with two voices


A.   Preliminaries

0. Introduction

I. The natural field of experiment – European Integration as social process

II. Foundations

III. A tentative Summary – Formations and Regimes

B.   European Integration – a model for a new state structure

0. Preliminary note

I. Aims and principles of the process of European integration – a historical brief

Instruments of European policy making

II. Paradox or terminological adaptation? or A model shifting from the community to state?

III. Governance structures


The European Institutions – there role and function in an official perspective. Basic information


A. Preliminaries

0. Introduction

There is far reaching symbolism in such a phrase.


First and foremost this is of course an allegation in regard of the multilingual aspect of the entity, which is currently known as European Union. However, if taken in this sense it reflects only a very small part of the challenge, since actually the European Union has 12 "official" languages and even more languages spoken in the – currently – 15 member states. And thus the use of the slogan of the two voices is only symbolic, indeed. And in actual fact it is questionable if and how far French and English are representing the most important traditions – be it as linguistic or social or economic traditions.


Another aspect is that that it is somewhat problematic to speak of a unit – this term suggests some form of finite stage, of finality and seclusion. However, in regard of the use of languages and in regard of the countries that are elements of this unit it has to bee seen that the given number is contemporary. The other way round this means that we are facing a dynamic entity, thus contradicting the idea of any finality and seclusion. – Having said this, we will have to reinvestigate the issue of seclusion, then dealing with the spatial aspect of an emerging fortress Europe, the single market and the complex entanglement with the world.


A third aspect of the implied symbolism has to be mentioned here in the introduction. The European Union is founded on the idea of an economic unit, namely with the aim of the creation of single market – and it is thoroughly appropriate to see this reflected in the dominant position of the use of the English language. Even if other reasons played a role in gaining this position as “world language” the following factor played a strong role. England had been the country in which capitalism in the sense of its founding role of the “Western World” has the longest tradition. And it had been from England where strong globalising pressures developed already in the midst of the 1800s. On the other hand we find French as language, which can well represent another strand of the development of current capitalist societies. It is the strand of the democratic, humanist society, based on the ideas of the bourgeois revolution in France – liberté, égalité and fraternité. Actually, it would be more correct to speak of the révolution des citoyennes.

   Of course, this reflects only part of the global historical development in the Western world, the strong initial role of the working class in England, of course going far beyond the challenges by the French citizenry – even as citoyens they had been bourgeois. The allegation does not reflect either the major influence of the German philosophy, which played a major role during the upheavals end of the 1840s, when Karl Heinrich Marx and Frederick Engels highlighted that “a spectre is haunting Europe” (Manifesto of the communist party – written December 1847-January 1848; in: Karl Marx & Frederick Engels. Selected Works in one volume; London: Lawrence&Wishart; 1968 [prepared, edited and published in 1968 by Progress Publishers, Moscow]: 35 – 62; here: 35). And even if these three major influences – German [idealist] philosophy, English [capitalist economy] and French [bourgeois-revolutionary] politics (see Vladimir Iljitsch Lenin: The three sources and three component parts of Marxism – written in March 1913; in: Karl Marx & Frederick Engels. Selected Works in one volume; London: Lawrence&Wishart; 1968 [prepared, edited and published in 1968 by Progress Publishers, Moscow]: 23 – 27) – had been determining the basic outline of European development up to today’s time there had been many other influences, in many cases going back far beyond the time which is usually considered in debates on European integration. Some impressions can be taken from a sketch on the very early history as it is grasped in the view on the mythology, quoted from Maria Mies.

In fact, the very name of this small continent – Europe – reflects this \history of conquest of land and the abduction and rape of her women. According to the Greek myth, Zeus, the Thunder-God residing on the Olympus, in the shape of a bull abducted Europa, the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and carried her over the sea to Crete. Agenor sent his sons out to search for their sister. One of them, Kadmos, landed in Greece and was told by the oracle of Delphi that he should wander around, armed with his spear till he reached the cowherd Pelagon in the land of Phokis. He should kill Pelagon – the man of earth, “born to die” – and choose the cow with the sign of the moon on both her flanks and follow her, till she would lie down, with her horns on the ground. On this hill he should kill and sacrifice her to the earth Goddess and then found a big city on this spot, Thebes.

Kadmos followed the oracle and became the founder of Thebes. He married Harmonia, the daughter of Ares, the War God, and Aphrodite (Kerényi 1966: 31-33). It is not clear from the myths whether he killed the moon-cow, obviously his sister Europa, or not. In any case, one does not hear of her again. She, the raped and abducted woman was only the means to lead the warrior and new culture hero into the foreign land and to his greatness.

I do not know why the name of this abducted and raped foreign women, a Phoenician, Semitic woman at that, a woman who never plays an active role in this myth, was chosen for a continent which has been more aggressive, more expansionist, more violently racist than any other.

From: Mies, Maria: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Herrmann, Peter [ed.]: Challenges for a global welfare system; New York: Nova Science, 1999

Coming back to the confrontation of the two voices and thus traditions – namely French and English – it is at least getting clear that we are concerned with the contradiction between the citoyen, i.e. the political citizenry, who opposed the traditional royal and noble system[1] and the bourgeois, the “economic citizenry, who opposed the economic feudal system on grounds of the requirements of an industrialising economy (you may read novels as that by Thomas Mann: Royal Highness or Galworthy’s Forthsyte Saga - taken from http://snow.prohosting.com/comnovel/galsworthy/fsaga10.html - November 24th, 2002).

  Looking at this conflict between citoyen and bourgeois is not the basic conflict – even if the conflict between their two voices – liberalism and humanism here and Manchester-capitalist liberalism there – brings us nearer to the fundamental conflict. However, before arriving there we have to look at the different political systems evolving not least from here. Even – looking now only at France and the UK – we have in both cases centralistic regimes, they are nevertheless fundamentally different. Finding the Jacobinism – a form of radical republicanism, which suggested the fusion of the people and the state[2] – on the one hand we are on the other hand concerned with a system, in which the state – and thus a central instance of identity building – is highly personalised. The people – far from “being the state”[3] – had been and still are Subject to Her[4] Majesty, the Queen. At least the following features are involved

Ø     For France

&        the state as responsible for providing a space in which the individuals can develop self-esteem as member of the large entity;

&        the state as responsible to provide a space in and by which the individuals can realise their own claims, requirements for “realising their self” and their dignity;

&        a strongly developed self-esteem on the side of the citizens asking for the acknowledgement and security of their personal – individual and social – rights;

&        a high degree of “dependency and even paternalistic solicitude by the state against the individual, meaning that the state overtakes the role of care “from the cradle to the grave”;

&        a high aspiration of the individual after securing personal independency;

&        a strong notion of immediate solidarity.

Ø     For the United Kingdom

&        a high degree of submissiveness – thus mirroring the status of subject to the majesty;

&        relatively being on its own and being left alone of the individual but as well of the smaller entities, as neighbourhoods, communities etc.

&        This includes seclusion but as well a seeming open-mindedness,

&        combined with this is a readiness to delegate tasks – actually a strange mixture of taking responsibility in the immediate and manageable social space and leaving things up to others beyond this border.

Up to here a kind of summary can be given by looking at the modified Internet-welcome page from the European Union – the point of departure is here the version before the change of the graphic around March 2001. The modification, we are interested in graphic two is concerned with mirroring the fact that the European Union as institutional system is largely (and by legal definition) an Intergovernmental System, led by the Heads of the States, rather than by any entity which is in its own right democratically legitimised. As such it is a space not only of diversity but furthermore by national(ist) orientations.




I. The natural field of experiment – European Integration as social process

It seems to be easy to begin with the presentation of the process of European Integration and the current institutional system by providing an overview over some core steps of the historical development as for example the different Treaties, the main bodies and the procedures of decision making. Actually, many books on the European Union do so and they face in most cases a fundamental difficulty. They fail or do not go far enough by using commonly unquestioned terms as state, democratic procedures, centralised and decentralised control and action, federalism, subsidiarity and the like. What is neglected is the fact that we are employed by a “natural social experiment”, a social and societal development, which is taking place in front of our eyes, in which we take in one form or another part and which is more and other than simply the reproduction and prolongation of those processes we know from history. The common sociological view on existing societies as ex post-analysis neglects as well to a mentionable degree that social and societal development is a non-linear process, indeed. Of course, this is a daring statement, finally social sciences is not least concerned with contradictions, upheavals, developmental leaps and setbacks. Nevertheless, social sciences and in particular sociology are as well concerned with the reveal of social and societal laws. Naturally, the contradictions are – ex post – “smoothened” and the result seems to leave the complex development behind it.

We know about the difficulties to operationalise the social patterns of contradiction as contradictions, which are overcome and of which elements are kept. As well known Karl Heinrich Marx used – referring to the Hegelian dialectic – the German term “aufgehoben” – reflecting in one word the twofold meaning of historical and social development. This term Auhebung refers to sublation and supersession. Furthermore, what he did is that he put the Hegelian idealism on its feet, looking for the material foundation of historical (sand thus social) processes.

Even if it is difficult, we want to try what in fact other sociologists – as Marx, but as well to name but a few Norbert Elias, Georg Simmel and Max Weber – did in their work. They looked at contemporary social structures in their development. Even concerned with the given society their ex post analysis, the view on the given structures had been concerned with the herein contained, the “aufgehobene” development.

II. Foundations

Let us first consider some fundamental approaches of analysis on societies. Here we name some selected paradigms – it can be questioned if the mentioned authors are “the most important”; in any case, they surely represent the main strands of the development of social sciences.[5]/[6]


theories of soci(et)al contracts, namely the approach by Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau;


the theory of civilisation, namely as it had been elaborated by Norbert Elias;


the theory of modernisation;


theory of “decreasing immediateness”, namely Arthur Sumner Maine, Emile Durkheim and Ferdinand Tönnies;


the theory of capitalism, represented here by the radically critical approach of Karl Heinrich Marx and Friedrich Engels and affirmative, nevertheless critical approach of Joseph Schumpeter. Here (economist and state) theories of regulation, as elaborated in particular by Michel Aglietta and Bob Jessop are as well highly important;


the theory of class analysis, social inequalities and social stratification – in part this will be already treated with in the review of theory of capitalism, but here going further and looking in particular at the approach developed by Max Weber, Theodor Geiger and Helmut Schelsky; with this theories of social injustice and poverty play a major role;


theories of policymaking and political structures, as elaborated by Antonio Gramsci and Antonio Labriola in terms of political and social movements on the one hand and in terms of insitutionalism, for example developed by Max Weber as well as systems theory and differentiation especially in the light of the interpretation by Niklas Luhmann.

As frightening as this list may appear, it is only to give an impression of the complexity of the field and as well the perspectives sociology may offer for the analysis of contemporary processes.

III. A tentative Summary – Formations and Regimes

As we could see, there is a long tradition of discussing formations and regimes, aiming on the development of different typologies that mirror either different stages of soci(et)al development or work along the supposition that distinct types exist historically parallel, depending on the respective preconditions. In any case one basic momentum that is mostly at stake is the hypothesis of a path-dependency. This means that none of these types is seen as blueprint or consciously and systematically planned and realised model. Rather, any status is the result of previous conditions from which it develops. The assessment of the factor, which are in play, even the question which factors are seen as relevant, as determinants is answered in different notions. Material factors as climate, natural resources but as well the economic powers, the technological standards and the like play just as good a role as the social, political and cultural system which develop from these objective factors and, at the very same time, steer these objective factors to some extent. Even the existence of natural resources is a necessary but not sufficient determinant of such a “path”. The pure existence does not say anything about the way of their appropriation and use.

Probably a commonly accepted view at least in the basic understanding had been expressed by Marx, when he wrote:

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundations” (Karl Marx: Preface to a contribution to the critique of political economy – written 1859; in: in: Karl Marx & Frederick Engels. Selected Works in one volume; London: Lawrence&Wishart; 1968 [prepared, edited and published in 1968 by Progress Publishers, Moscow]: 172 – 176; here 173)

Less generally agreed will be the continuation. Marx continues that on these foundations

arises a legal and political superstructure of society and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. (ibid.)

Even less agreeable, here nevertheless taken as important general discovery of social science is when Marx goes on that

At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead to sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformation it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal,, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. (ibid.: 173 f.)

It has to be seen that we find a close relationship between the mode of production on the one hand and political patterns, including what is currently mainly seen as welfare regimes as they had been presented in the analysis by Gøsta Esping-Andersen.

What should be clear at this stage is that the state and even more so the nation state is by no means any fixed point, given as a frame of social integration and for political steering. Without any doubt, the principle of the separation of political powers into a legislative, an executive and finally a judicative power – as it had been originally developed into a formal political framework by Charles de Secondat Montesquieu in The Spirit of Law – published 1748, link on website – have been a major progress. This is true in particular against the background of their development, repressing the overwhelming absolutist power namely of Louis XIV. Fundamentally it is however true in much wider sense, and the meaning of this process of balancing power and influence is undoubtedly an important structural element as well of today’s societies at least of the Western European world.


Nevertheless, state and nation are a recent development only and there are good reasons to suggest that they will not last forever. Both, nation and state have a meaning over a specific period of time, responding to specific conditions and structures namely of the mode of production.

We can get an idea already of their diminishing role by following the debate on globalisation. For example many scholars put the thesis forward that

(a) in a newly developing system any national borders are getting meaningless, that national governments lost already at this stage their basic influences and can only formally back or oppose any international and moreover supranational decisions.

It goes on (b) that actually the power is not at all anymore in the hands of any governments in the sense, as we usually understand them. Instead, it is argued, that power shifted away from democratically legitimised governments, now being in the hands of inter- and transnational enterprises. It is not our concern here to prove or refute such a thesis. Questions than would be for example if the development is really as far as these authors suggest it and/or if not already early developments at least of industrial capitalism followed the very same fundamental pattern (see for a balancing discussion the text from the ETUI;see as well here for some more information on gobalisation, in particular the notes by Bob Deacon). What is clear in any case is that the seemingly eternal structuration of society is by now means eternally tied up to the concept of the nation-state.


Social integration is – and this is an argument which goes far beyond the one mentioned before – is anyway much more than just integration around state. Actually we find right now the revival of a debate, which during the history of the last centuries tables again and again the question of social integration as parallel to the state. In modern history we can trace this back in particular to the debate by Alexis de Toqueville. In his seminal work on Democracy in America he laid the ground for debates, which are currently lead under terms as comunitarism, civil and citizens society – in many times countered with the political society (see in regard of this debate Rawls, Etzioni, Walzer; a valuable brief overview can be found in Fred Powell/Donal Guerin: Civil Society and Social Policy. Voluntarism in Ireland; Dublin: A. & A. Farmer, 1997.

This issue is currently as well issued from different political parties – for example Clinton, Blair and Schroeder tried to develop with their “New democracy”, “New Labour” and “New Middle” respectively (more infomation) some answers to what they felt as crisis of political legitimation and crisis of the welfare state alike; but as well already their conservative predecessors had been keen to develop ideas of a self-supportive, self-sustaining system of individualised and nevertheless socially conscious and responsible citizenry. Again, it is not the point to prove or disprove such concepts here – for example questions of democratic legitimacy, independence of the organisational structure as regards the political objectives of the organisation, the relationship between different patterns and elements of governance and not least the ways of making a wider civil engagement possible by a “strong state” would have to be addressed. At least it is once more clear that the claim of absolute validity of the contemporary system is thoroughly questionable.


State and nation are basically political concepts – perhaps even more concepts with a limited orientation on questions of institutional structuration – rather than concepts of viewing on the overall soci(et)al integration. With this statement two aspects are involved.


The one is that – as we could see – the state is a derivate from other, previous conditions. The analytical framework of relating foundation and superstructure had been developed above.


The other aspect here is that states as moment of the superstructure are at the end only a relatively small aspect of a complex structure. This is not just a statement on a very abstract level. Rather, it is this circumstance that we have to have mind when we look at various concrete political patterns, mechanisms and structures as we find them reflected in typologies as presented above. Decentralism and centralism, flexible and open public services and bureaucracy, direct democracy as permanent public decision making and periodic elections as periodic recurring control etc. are path-dependent. They reflect the different points from which individual societies and states respectively start their development. These conditions are concerned with material conditions as well as with the way people deal with them. And as such they are part of a wider setting of economic, social, cultural integration and power structures.

B. European Integration – a model for a new state structure

0. Preliminary note

Commonly it is regarded as problematic to talk of an emerging European state. The reason for this is that – as argued – the state is seen as fixed and somewhat eternal structure. Despite the admitted differences there is an at least vague understanding of broad equality between them, frequently mixed up with the concept of nationality. Beyond conceptualising the state as nation state common features are in particular


the adherence of basic rules of separation of power


the existence of a kind of constitution,


the embedding and embedded “internal economy” (in form of an “internal market”) and


the feeling of belonging (the national consciousness, not least to a large extent bound to “national symbols” as language, an anthem, a flag, a currency etc.[7]

– It is only en passent to mention that in some cases some states, which are lacking one element are nevertheless commonly accepted as “democratic state”[8]; others have all or the most important elements in place, are nevertheless seen as states, but the democratic character is denied to them.[9] But even if mentioned only in passing these cases are relevant as they show another time the relative vague character of the concept of the “state” – it is a political concept in itself, concerned with the political inclusion and exclusion of other entities alike.

The difficulty to talk of the now European Union is mainly given by the measurement of this new entity against standards, as they had been mentioned before as characteristics of a state and nation respectively. And seen in this light, the EU is definitely not a state. It is probably even too optimistic to speak of an emerging state as long as this is related to a foreseeable future. The latter is already disputable as the development of what we call the EU happened over a historically very short time span of slightly more than half a century – despite this limited time span quite far-reaching changes took place. Furthermore, in the recent time we find some more far reaching changes as the Convention, the debate on a Constitution of the EU and the acknowledgement of a definitely independent entity with the fully developed right of a representative role in internal and international affairs is shading new light on the EU. – However, there are nevertheless good reasons not to see a fundamentally changed pattern of polities, politics and policies yet.

Placing the question of a state, however, against the background of the general theories as we presented them above, we can get a clearer picture of the issues at stake.

I. Aims and principles of the process of European integration – a historical brief

The actual process of European integration after World War II had been based on two main aims:


securing peace – what happened after the fascists gained power in Germany and spreading this barbaric political regime across other countries, people in general and politicians and economically strong powers had been aware of the necessity of peace. Even if there had been different interests peace can be seen as one foundation stone of this entity; for this the Heads of States wanted – despite others – avoid the possible emergence of a new superpower. In particular this had been concerned with the necessary gain over Germany in which two World Wars have had their roots.


In part independent of this, in part closely connected the second aim had been concerned with the building of an Economic entity, the single market (the role of importance of this became known as Monnet-method.

It had been acknowledged that the differences could not be overcome by efforts to force these different systems into any kind of corset of a ‘unified entity’ – to some extent this meant as well that they denied on the one hand what they preached on the other hand. Concrete, again and again it had been emphasised the European integration would not be seen as development of a cultural and social entity. At the same time the Monnet method had been built on the idea to develop on such a cultural and social entity. This approach had been termed in theoretical contexts as (neo-)functionalism.


Point of departure is a predicament, given by the political and economic situation after World War II.


In consequence the founding and original member states laid down some basic political and economic regulations in regard of political stabilisation and economic recovery.


By concentration on areas where common and mutual efforts had been essential, namely public goods and mutual interest goods and the reinforcement of the basic principles it had been envisaged that common efforts would be sufficient as basis for

  Ø     the development of common economic politics and policies

  Ø     the emergence of collective welfare

  Ø     the concatenation of political relationships

  Ø     the evolution of public support.


Institutionally European entities would originally exist side by side with national institutions; however, in the medium and long run the national institutions would be substituted by supranational institutions, namely the Council and the Commission – the latter would thus emerge as points where European competence would be crystallise


The institutional success – namely depending on the interaction between Commission and Council would show especially as success of three features:

Ø     stimulation of good ideas and appropriate entrepreneurs – the latter would act as innovators and act as an avant-garde of Europeanisation;

Ø     the institutions had been expected to provide practical solutions in regard of important questions, which had been generally acknowledged as relevant and requiring action;

Ø     The immediate interests of the actors, in particular the elites, in regard of the emerging European system had to be met.


A.S. Milward (The European Rescue of the Nation State [London: Routledge, 1992] translated this into - and traced it back from - very concrete terms of rational interests behind the action of the founding individual Member States. In the words of Brendan P.G. Smith the Treaties of Rome 'provided a politico-economic framework to control a renewed Germany, after American pressure had ensured that a permanently weakened Germany was not an option. For France, the Treaty of Rome promised, perhaps, a chance to control German renewal more subtly than occupation ever could. For German, it was a dignified ascent towards respectability and renewal after the abyss of fascism. For the Benelux countries the treaty was a promise that there would be no return to the post-war protection that had so devastated their export-based economies. For the Belgians, it was a look away from simmering internal division. For Italy, it was a means of attaining French and German markets so badly needed to recover.' (B.P.G. Smith: Constitution Building in the European Union. The Process of Treaty Reforms; The Hague/Ldn./N.Y.: Kluwer Law International, 2002: 23 f.


In this institutional structure and against the background of these interests the Commission was conceptualised mainly as “acting institution” whereas the Council had the just as important role to identify the problems and challenges from the national perspective and to articulate the respective interests.


In the Treaty (of Rome) the basic structure had been only put down in term of a general framework. Nevertheless, at the same time some stabilising factors had been included. In particular these can be named as Court of Justice and the European Parliament.

Instruments of European policy making

ARTICLE 249 (ex Article 189) as laid down in the Treaty of Amsterdam


* ‘In order to carry out their task and in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty, the European Parliament acting jointly with the Council, the Council and the Commission shall make regulations and issue directives, take decisions, make recommendations or deliver opinions.

* A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

* A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods.

* A decision shall be binding in its entirety upon those to whom it is addressed.

* Recommendations and opinions shall have no binding force.’

* Even if of a very different status Communications by the Commission should be mentioned as well. They are important instruments in regard of analytical character with an important role in agenda setting.

II. Paradox or terminological adaptation? or A model shifting from the community to state?

In the beginning of the institutionalised integration of Europe we saw that the official name entailed an allegation of interpretation as community. From the presentation we know as well that on this stage more then during the later phases there had been no consideration of democratic participation, of a common culture, a common social space and even of social cohesion and mutual support at all – the evolving body was officially elitist in the first instance. Any developments beyond this had been seen – if at all – as a by-product. The primary law, i.e. the Treaty of Rome stated – and actually still states the Heads of the States as actors.

What is interesting now is that the undemocratic structure and even more the lack of “a people of Europe” as basis for any existing or developing community in a sociological sense had been reflected in a change of the name. We saw the Heads of the states replacing the term European Economic Community successively by the terms European Communities and then – in our context more importantly – European Union.[10]

Definitely this terminological shift took place without being aware of the sociological meaning. At this lead to a somewhat paradox development. While the terms used – in particular if we skip the medium stage of the EC – changed to the emphasis of the character of a formally, legalist framework of a supposedly and/or feared for developing state in fact at least to some extent the reality developed insofar differently as the emergence of a “state” was more supplemented by the developing of a European community in the sociological sense.

Sure, it is far too early to talk of a European people, there are – if at all – only modicums of a civil society, even in cases where people are most likely forced together by common interests we are facing the difficulties. Thus in many cases trade unions act nationally, interpret interests as national ones rather than seeing the need for European (and global) action. The lack of social cohesion, differences of language, the diversity of cultures and even increasing nationalist orientation not only within politically extreme rights are an ongoing issue. These differences, which go ahead, the lack of a real community is not least strongly supported by the Heads of the states – even if they proclaim the coalescence of the people, the unity and even a (model of a) European society they lack honesty in this regard. We saw that they secured their own power by (a) including the principle of subsidiarity into the Treaty of Amsterdam and (b) by the continuing refusal of giving power away in a field which are of core importance for keeping national identity ands legitimacy, namely the fields of social policy, education and culture.[11]

III. Governance structures

For two reasons the institutional system of the European Union is difficult to be grasped.


The one reason is that it emerged on contradicting grounds.

Ø     It is an artificial system ‘based on law’ in which “society” seems to some extent at least to be based on law rather than the other way round law reflecting society. Of course, this is finally not true and the objective, the material background of the existing class society is visible in the large plan as well as in the details. But the meaning of the statement is that we are employed by a kind of “blueprint” of a society and the legal system respectively.

Ø     At the same time, however, this “blueprint” is a patchwork. Rather than being planned in one piece it mirrors the temporary character, the compromises the readiness for ever new changes and the in some cases frantic efforts to keep hold of traditional patterns of national “independence” and propria.


The other reason for the difficulty of understanding this system is that the new and further developing governance structure is characterised by overlapping circles. By this a structure is emerging, which is t4o some extent new.

In regard of the newness we have to be careful as “new” means first foremost only that it is not simply the reproduction and mirror of exiting systems. Just by compromising and thus patchworking this new structure evolves.

In some cases existing structures are strengthened. We can mention in this regard as most important moments the following.


On an earlier stage of political development of western democracies power shifted away from democratically elected systems and was exerted by bureaucratic and expertocratic institutions. On this stage, however, the main guiding principle was mainly that of political decisions. We can immediately look back to Max Weber’s analysis of bureaucracy.


Later a further shift took place. The political institutions lost almost completely the control over the experts and bureaucrats. It is true that on the surface a re-politisation took place and issues had been “fought out”. However in many cases these had been brought down to expertocratically and/or bureaucratically determined negotiation. In many – and actually in many of the politically most decisive – cases the decision had not been taken on the political level. Instead, the High Courts had been called to decide on legal grounds. This “empowerment of law” as instance of policy making can be seen in the member states, on the international level and the supranational level of the European Union alike.


Another factor of continuity is the strengthening of lobbying structures. Even if the traditional ways with their suspicious and dubious way are probably not – completely – replaced, the lobbyism in itself had been restructured and put on more formal and transparent feet. Besides the general aspects involved this has been of major importance as pressure on traditional clientelistic and patronalist structures.


Of ongoing importance as well is the selectivity of electoral systems. Actually, this has been even strengthened by the decline in the turnout of selections. We are, in fact, concerned with a circle in which the loss of the meaning of elections by a reduction of choice lead to a further drop in the turnout.


Of ongoing importance – and strengthened – is as well the widening gap between various political instances and levels. Namely we are concerned with

Ø     The increasing power of the central instances – central laws are reaching further and further – this is true in regard of the substantial reach and the reach in spatial terms. In other words laws and regulations of central governments regulate ever more areas and fields. And at the same time these regulations are concerned with issues of immediate interest of the nation and as well with regional and even local issues. Taking the term of political capital, as it has been introduced for example by theories of institutional choice, we can up to here draw a parallel to the Marxist analysis of the concentration and centralisation of capital.

Ø     Seemingly opposing is the further development of a process, which takes place at the same time, i.e. the increasing meaning of implementation in the sense of its politisation. Decisions made on the central level and by laws and other ways of regulation are re-interpreted by those instances, which are putting them into practice. It is contradicting only insofar as this is in fact another parallel. What Marx could analyse only on a germinating stage, came later much stronger to the fore and is actually only currently in its full blossom, the quantitatively important role of SMEs and their limited power as they are largely depending on oligopolist and monopolist enterprises.

This can be seen in concrete and descriptive terms by the following. Decisive is the fact that these two shifts are very much reflected in development of the institutional structures, i.e. the shift from the Council as sole political agent to (a) the Commission as implementing agency with a strong role and power of political interpretation and (b) the ECJ. In this context – eventually as excurse – it has to be developed the specific interest of the different institutions from the view of institutional/organisational theory: Self-interest, legitimation etc.; it is worthwhile mentioning the changing orientation of the EP: as long as it had been powerless we find mostly (near) unanimity votes, with growing inclusion in the power structures this changed.


Even if the following is in its own meaning only a more or less recent development it is strengthened as well and we still can take it as aspect of the traditional patterns of governance structures. The centralisation of political decision-making and the localisation of policy making (in the sense of implementation) cause a general withdrawal of interest from institutional politics. We mentioned already the decreasing turnout in elections. Another issue is the general complain by politicians and political science of a privatisation, the crisis of legitimacy of the political system, the trend of privatisation of attitudes and the like.[12] Other factors link well into these shifts of political patterns.


Processes of individualisation, which can be found at least on the surface.[13]


The shift in the forms of political engagement

Ø     from long-term inclusion into political life-worlds (“from the cradle to the grave”) to short-term orientation, with a stronger commitment to projects and single issues

Ø     from the system of traditional institutional settings of the representative democracy and the realm of individual action within this to more life-world bound areas of activities in areas of immediate personal interest, dismay and opportunity of gaining influence.

   The latter is as well a qualification of the supposed shift to short-term orientation. Life-world orientation means that at the same time an element of multidimensional, holistic orientation is involved.


A privatisation can be seen as well even if it is by no means clear whether this has to be understood as retreat and resignation or as a strategic reorientation in the sense of making the private a matter of the political and the political a matter of the private. In any case, the background is most likely a combination of

Ø     the lack of responsiveness of the dominant institutional system,

Ø     the enforcement of such a retreat by increasing pressure on the individual (by unemployment and employment and as well by the working conditions; the growing pressure on the living conditions of the private (households) are definitely a further factor.

Of course, this list can be extended as well, but what is mentioned is already sufficient to show what we are talking about. In respect of both the continuity and the discontinuity it is important to be aware of the strong national aspects involved. What might mean a for one country strengthening of patterns can mean for another country a weakening of the concomitant system and vice versa.


The Europe Polities, Politics and Policies – a more or less official perspective.      
Basic information

from: Weidenfeld, Werner/Wessels, Wolfgang: Europea from A to Z. Guide to European Integration; Institute for European Poitics; Bonn: Europa Verlag, undated; Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

The European Commission, Directorate General Press and Communication. General interest publications, mentioned that the documents published here are from a book of which the script had been completed in 1996. I am grateful for the tip:

"On our side, we refer in stead to our texts available on europa.eu.int, in particular the summaries of all EU leglislation which can be found under the category "Activities" and the shorter, journalistic texts which a.o. can be searched on the sub-site europa.eu.int/comm/publications















[1]    As Marx stated this traditional system had been in conflict with the emerging capitalist mode of production, develop to their fetters – see: Karl Marx: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Even if concerned with the economic basis of societal constitution this had been – in particular in France – the basis for a political struggle and upheaval.

[2]    Thus founding jacobinist centralism.

[3]    This is an allegation to the words which supposedly Louis IVX, the absolute monarch, exclaimed, i.e. “l’état, c’est moi” The state, that is me.

[4]    Sic! She refers to herself, not to the people nor even to God.

[5]    At least en passent it has to be said that the following headings are somewhat imprecise since they emphasise a particular aspect of the theory in question rather than reflecting the complexity in full. In fact, neither can Elias be fully satisfied by categorising him as theorist of civilisation nor can Marx be seen simply as theorist of capitalism. And the same is – cum grano salis – true for the others.

[6]    Some had been mentioned during lectures and more information can be found in other notes, to some documents can be found for example in the collection of literature, for some it is generally recommended to have a look at the respective paradigms in general introducti9ons of sociology , sociological readers or the original works written by them

[7]    Some of what had been mentioned as symbol is of course at the same time an “objective means of communication”, taking Niklas Luhmann’s understanding of systems and their “codes”.

[8]    For example the UK has now written or in another way fixed constitution and is nevertheless seen without doubt belonging to this circle.

[9]    This had been the case in most of the former socialist countries. In these cases it is interesting that they themselves preferred to use the term country for their own being insofar that they claimed that the state as such would dissolve.

     Other interesting cases arise in the recent time when former nation states definitely dissolve and new nation states are founded with and against part of the former states.

[10] As mentioned the term European Communities still grasps a legal entity, i.e. the three pillars taken together. However, the furthest developed part – and this is the part commonly seen as successor of the EEC – is now called the European Union.

[11] Of course, there are compromises. But, as we could already see these are (a) due to economic reasons in connection with establishing the single market and (b) to reasons of political legitimacy, i.e. challenges by the people or some interest groups.

[12] However, we have to be careful in this regard as it can be made out in many cases that we are not concerned by a fundamental loss of interest and attention. Rather we find a shift and a re-interpretation of political interests and activities. Furthermore, some issues cannot be made out to that extent which is necessary to get a clear picture. The background for this statement is that there is some evidence for the fact that w find already in early stages of the industrial societies some forms of retreat. We can go as far as taking the “state inside of the state” as the social democratic communities had been called for many times.

[13] This qualification has to be made since it is questionable that we are really concerned with fundamental changes. In fact, we can see at least two factors contradicting such a perspective:

(a)     tracing modernisation back to the processes of enlightenment and the attached orientation of individualisation and emphasis of individual responsibility and obligation means that we may have reached a new stage but at the same time are concerned with the process which had basically put into action already at this early stage;

(b)     furthermore – and to some extent the “supporting reverse” – we can see processes and movements as “romanticism” – a notion, which – taken in a wide sense – occurred at different times under different headings and aimed to revitalise such early, but at least temporarily forgotten features, i.e. the connection between modernisation and individualisation.