The Normative Turn in European Union Studies: Legitimacy, Identity and Democracy
University of Exeter Department of Politics RUSEL Working Paper No. 38
14 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2010 Last revised: 12 Jan 2010
Date Written: 2000
By raising fundamental questions about the methods and ultimate goals of European integration, Maastricht forced supporters and opponents alike to confront the legitimacy both of the Union and - as has become apparent with the crisis of the Santer Commission - of the institutional architecture put in place to steer it. The strategic-oriented action and normative argument avoided for so long by the main political actors, are inescapable when tackling this issue. Thus, national politicians and European authorities have self-consciously, though perhaps confusedly, been obliged to start discussing the future shape of what Jacques Delors once called ‘un object politique non-identifié.’ Academics, for their part, have discovered that the integration process depends not simply on functional efficiency and certain given economic and national interests, but also on people’s ideals and perceptions. Consequently, explanation and justification have proved less easily distinguishable than earlier positivistic and behaviouralist models assumed. Hence, the ‘normative turn’ in European studies. In this essay we wish to clarify certain aspects of the normative turn (section 1) and to explore some of the substantive issues that emerge from subjecting the European integration process to normative scrutiny (sections 2, 3 and 4). In the conclusion, we shall sketch the kind of normative politics we feel best suits the emerging European polity.
Keywords: Normative Theory, EU, Citizenship, Legitimacy, Democracy
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