The transformations of European integration:
actors, policies, methods
This thematic section, organised by the Research Group on the European Union (GrUE), focuses on the transformations of European integration. Launched in autumn 2017, the members of the GrUE organised three workshops in Strasbourg, Paris and Oxford, participated in the rencontres de la science politique initiated by the AFSP in Saint-Denis in 2018, and are currently preparing a working day dedicated to doctoral students (the “Doctoriales”) to be held in Brussels in 2019. Several publications (a bibliographical note for the Revue française de science politique and the direction of two special issues, one of which for Politique européenne), which result from this work, are being prepared.
In addition, the GrUE aims to work on a edited volume in order to gather the main research results of these two years of research. In order to prepare this publication, this thematic section focuses on the presentation of completed research to contribute to the GrUE’s collective book. Three panels structure the thematic section proposed by the GrUE: 1) the dynamics of differentiation of European integration; 2) the processes of legitimisation of European public action; 3) the methodological mechanisms implemented to survey in Brussels.
1. Sources and effects of differentiation dynamics
The first panel aims to gather contributions that question the transformations of European Union (EU) governance in terms of the dynamics of differentiated European integration (Leuffen, Rittberger, Schimmelfenning, 2012; Leruth, Lord, 2017). Where are the political-institutional demarcation lines that historically and sociologically structure the “Eurocracy field” (Georgakakis, 2012)? Are they national boundaries between Member States, institutional ones between supranational and intergovernmental institutional bodies, intersectoral demarcation between policy areas or do the results lead to unexpected “transversal lines” (Basaran, Bigo, Guittet, Walker, 2016; Guiraudon, El Qadim, 2017)?
Once these political-institutional demarcations have been identified, the objective is to interpret their sources or sociological effects in a given historical context. What are the modalities for producing the differentiation logics of European integration? How can we understand the emergence of a differentiation dynamic such as the constitution of the Schengen Area, the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), the Eurozone, an opt-out mechanism or Brexit? This panel also aims to discuss communications that analyse the effects generated by the dynamics of differentiation on different scales of public action (sub-national, national, European, global). It will then be a question of how EU or non-EU actors adapt, benefit or on the contrary undergo this redefinition of the legitimate boundaries of the Eurocracy field vis-à-vis its “counter-fields” (Member States, interest groups, the international world). Based on demonstrations involving first-hand sources, this thematic section will prioritize original theoretical and conceptual proposals that take the notion of differentiation seriously.
2. Legitimisation processes of EU public action
The second panel focuses on mobilizations that aim to promote, justify and ensure acceptance of European public action (Lagroye et al. 2015). We encourage papers going beyond the sectoral analysis of public policies, questioning the various forms of legitimisation of EU policies and their contestation. What role should be granted to ideas and knowledge in the analysis of the functioning of EU institutions? Which actors are involved in the legitimisation of EU public action? In which arenas do these processes take place?
The panel intends to focus on cross-cutting approaches of EU public action in various ways. Papers could first identify and question trans-sectoral forms of legitimisation. Second, they could articulate different approaches of the research on public policies, studying the kind of knowledge used to justify them, actors who carry these resources and practices that derive from them. Third, they could also point out the different levels of production and spreading of the forms of legitimisation. This multi-level analysis could be either vertical, analysing the different scales of action (national, European, international) or it could be horizontal, analysing the different institutions and actors (even those in the fringes of Eurocracy) involved in the legitimisation processes. Finally, special attention could be paid to the production of competing forms of legitimisation. With the emphasis on cross-cutting approaches, this panel aims to contribute to a broader research field on the transformations of the State and of public action.
3. Fieldwork practices: research objects and methods
This third panel tackles the question of the links between the construction of the research object et investigation practices (Siméant, 2015) in order to understand how the EU is being investigated, with which objectives and for which results. Have the repeated invitations in the last few years to “normalise” the methods used in European Union research (Hassenteufel, Surel, 2015) been effective? On the contrary, does the sui generis nature of European integration, as well as the relative autonomy of the centres and peripheries of this political and institutional environment, require new methodologies? All in all, we will try to understand how are European integration related fieldworks elaborated and invested by academics. Papers could deal with methods used in the definition of the fieldwork, strategies developed in order to master the field, or oppositions that one had to handle. Authors could focus in particular on methodological issues they have had to tackle. Faced with the heterogeneity of national statistical categories, connections between different political systems, divided professional networks or “hard to get” elites, researchers have to be creative. Papers could focus on tricks, patch-up jobs, inventions or alternatives used in the building of the research protocol. We would also like also to question the methodological implications of the movement of research objects from the Brussel microcosm/bubble (Laurens, Marchan, Van Criekingen, 2012) to new objects, located “à contrepoint” (Weisbein, 2008). How are these objects approached methodologically, and what can we benefit from highlighting the links between those two dimensions? Is this change of perspective the product or the vector of the methodological normalisation of European studies? Finally, what are the consequences of this renewal of research objects (and methods?) on the general comprehension of European integration even to spaces apparently more distant from the centre of the Community power sphere? By questioning investigation practices, this panel aims to understand better recent and future evolutions of works dedicated to the EU.
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