Comparing Euroscepticisms: Democracy, Nationalism and European Integration in France and Germany
78 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2013
Date Written: 2013
European integration represents a unique and exemplary instance of supranational governance that presided over the resurrection of a ruined continent into the world’s largest economic area and sustained the longest period of peace in its history. Central to this unprecedented period of peace and prosperity enjoyed by Europe’s states has been the role of European integration as both an agent and guarantor of democracy on the continent. The prosperity that went with tying the continent’s states into a broad and seamless market economy, combined with their development of intersectoral modes of collaboration and evolution of extensive and robust welfare states so that this prosperity could be broadly shared within them, set the basis for the emergence of stable and vibrant democracies in countries that, only two decades before, had seen their democratic systems collapse in the face of ideological extremism and political polarization. In turn, beginning in the 1980’s and particularly following the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989-90, the European project served as a powerful vehicle for the spread of democratic ideals and institutions across the continent.
The present European sovereign debt crisis, however, has provided an unprecedented test of Europe’s democratic vocation and resolve, signaling the resurgence of the forces of nationalism that the European project had formerly done so well to curb but which now, in its current guise and orientation, it increasingly appears to be fueling. Specifically, by tracking an increasingly neoliberal course from the 1980’s on, the integration process has progressively undone the systems of regulated capitalism that restored European nation states to economic health and democracy following the collapse of the liberal order in the 1930s and ‘40s, and which in turn underlay and impelled their confederal cooperation. On the contrary, by privileging economic rationality over communal values and market efficiency over social goals, European integration since the 1980s has fatefully undermined the functional and normative bases that made European cooperation possible in the first place. As such, the current Eurozone crisis can be read, both in its manifestations and the failure of the responses that have been crafted to it, as the culmination of and microcosm for the dismantlement of the interventionist guarantees of the democratic nation state underpinning European integration.
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