The world society turn in European Studies

Authored by: Chris Rumford , Didem Buhari-Gulmez

Routledge Handbook of European Politics

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415626750
eBook ISBN: 9781315755830
Adobe ISBN: 9781317628361


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In studies of European integration, the focus conventionally falls on the ways in which the European Union (EU) has constructed itself as a coherent economic and political entity on the foundations of existing European nation-states, and how this has been achieved by protecting Europe from the depredatory influence of external economic (and other) processes. The problem with this narrative is less its inherent solipsism, although this is debilitating enough, than the positioning of Europe as somehow external to or detached from the processes of transformation – subsumed under the general heading of globalization – that continue to shape the world, including Europe. In pursuing this strategy, scholars of European integration neglect not only the complex dynamics of globalization that affect Europe in so many ways but also the extent to which the EU can actively shape globalization (although this consideration has emerged in integration studies of late). Arguably more important still is the extent to which the appreciation of Europe itself is moulded by the assumptions inherent in the ‘defensive Europe’ perspective. Integration discourse posits a Europe in the singular, a Europe of ‘unity in diversity’ perhaps, but one that does not doubt its wholeness or coherence. But this is not the only way in which Europe can be conceived. Under the weight of contra-indications from a range of Global Studies-inspired texts (e.g. Böröcz 2010; Rumford 2008) and an emerging literature on ‘cosmopolitan Europe’ (Beck and Grande 2007; Delanty 2009), the limitations of the ‘one Europe’ model have been challenged. The ‘world society turn’ in European Studies is the latest and most far-reaching critique to emerge from within this trend, building upon insights in the study of globalization and cosmopolitanism to construct a very different account of ‘Europe in the world’ (Bialasiewicz 2011).

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