Friday, April 01, 2011

Gerard Delanty: Europeanization as a Transformative Process

Gerard Delanty
During his Liverpool Days

As I noted yesterday, Gerard Delanty reviewed nine books in his article on European identity, "Conceptions of Europe: A Review of Recent Trends" (European Journal of Social Theory, 6(4) 2003). The classroom discussion on this material went fairly well, though I wish that I had found time to take a look at the books themselves, but that's another matter. Speaking of time, since I'm short on that today, I'll just quote from Delanty again and briefly comment. This is from Delanty's introduction:
The nine books under consideration reflect a tendency in recent scholarship to view Europe as an object of research and of theoretical and philosophical reflection. The question of Europe has now had an impact on the diverse fields of sociology, anthropology, political science, philosophy and history which have all responded in different ways to the recognition that a transnational project engineered by nation-states is transforming those very entities that gave rise to it and something new is being created in this process. Although it is debated exactly how new, it is generally agreed that something new is emerging with the enhanced momentum of Europeanization in recent years which has led from a transformation of the state to a transformation of society and the construction of new conceptions of the self, power and culture. As several of the selected books demonstrate, this relatively new object of research and consciousness in the social and human sciences does not replace national societies but operates alongside them and is even articulated within national societies as part of their socio-cognitive self-understanding in a post-national era. Indeed, as Douglas Holmes's book shows, nations are still capable of arousing powerful expressions of belonging (see also Delanty and O'Mahony, 2002). But Europe is no longer a residual category in contemporary conceptions of the nation: it has a huge presence in all societies as an economic, legal and symbolic entity. The question of Europe is now a central dimension of the wider societal transformation of modernity, the reflection on which is also a reflection on the meaning of Europe. It is thus difficult to be specific on what we are talking about, for 'Europeanization' is not leading to a society, a state, a cultural or a geographical entity that can be specified with precision, but a process. Even if we take the now expanding European Union as the geopolitical entity, as several of our authors do, the problem still remains -- exactly what is Europe as an object of research?

The various books considered in this review article go some distance towards answering this question as to the theoretical construction of Europe as an object of research and reflection. Although one might wish for more theoretical elaboration, there is a discernible trend to avoid purely descriptive categories or ones that are excessively normative. Until now the categories that are used to make sense of Europeanization tended on the whole to be descriptive -- describing the European project from a standpoint that did not need to question its spatial and temporal reference points -- and generally supported by strong normative positions, to which there was the occasional 'Euro-sceptical' rejoinder. The problem with such approaches is that they failed to appreciate the dynamic and creative processes that are involved in Europeanization and the fact that in recent times this process has reached a point where it needs the application of new forms of reflection and critique, and ones that cannot rely on the attribution of 'crisis'. The normative standpoint for the critique of Europeanization can no longer be the nation-state (of the books reviewed, Siedentop's is the only one that does not seem to recognize the need for a renewal in our critical concepts). This relativization of reference points is particularly a problem for comparative research, which traditionally has been cross-national and thus presupposing the existence of relatively coherent and stable national societies where, at the most, converging and diverging trends might be discerned. The emerging field of Europeanization indicates a different object of research and consciousness for which new methods and theories are required. For the moment, it seems, the most interesting studies concern the relation of national societies to the processes and dynamics of Europeanization within the context of the wider societal transformation of modernity by transnational processes. The following thematically organized essay reviews some recent contributions indicative of current trends. (Gerard Delanty, "Conceptions of Europe: A Review of Recent Trends," European Journal of Social Theory, 6(4) 2003, pages 471-473)
The interesting point here is Delanty's implication that what is needed is a study of "Europeanization" that is neither merely descriptive (e.g., the EU is composed of . . .) nor intrusively normative (e.g., the EU should stand for . . .) -- though there is a place for each of these -- but that focuses upon the transformative processes at work as "a transnational project engineered by nation-states is transforming those very entities that gave rise to it and something new is being created in this process."

One of the things transforming Europe that gets largely ignored in Delanty's review article is the degree to which large-scale immigration from Muslim lands is affecting a Europe whose native population is in decline. Some projections forecast a large Muslim presence in Europe by as early as 2050, and this will surely transform Europe in ways that need to be thought about now. Of course, Delanty's review dates from 2003, somewhat before this issue began to receive more focused attention, but I'd be curious to see what Delanty might have to say about Islam in Europe.

Maybe another time . . .

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At 5:33 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

the degree to which large-scale immigration from Muslim lands is affecting a Europe

Though, as far as Italy is concerned, the common perception of a "muslim invasion" is misguided. Most immigrants in fact belong to the Christian Orthodox Churches, since they come from Eastern Europe.

At 5:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Most Muslims in Europe seem to head for the wealthy, northern European countries.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:45 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

They can be fundamentalists, but not fools, then :-) It would not very wise to migrate into a Third world country as this one is changing into.

Whereas thousands of East European women works as 24/7 nurses to old people (we are the oldest nation worldwide after Japan).

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Interesting. I hadn't known about the age thing in Italy.

Jeffery Hodges

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