PERCEIVE project - Deliverable D5.1 "Short contribution (report) to be used in dissemination events about the empirical relevance of a social constructivist and discursive approach to EU identity emergence and integration"

Barberio, Vitaliano ; Mollona, Edoardo ; Pareschi, Luca (2017) PERCEIVE project - Deliverable D5.1 "Short contribution (report) to be used in dissemination events about the empirical relevance of a social constructivist and discursive approach to EU identity emergence and integration". p. 37. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsacta/5517.
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European integration has been a long and complex, at times problematic process ever since 1957, encompassing the emergence of new institutions and actors. In spite of the centrality that such institutions and actors play in all Europeans’ everyday life, as of today the European project remains fragile and subject to eroding pressures from factors such as macro-economic cycles and anti-EU political movements, among many others. It is important to advance our insights into how citizens’ knowledge of relevant aspects of everyday social, political, and economic life in the EU is shaped and how this impacts their identification with the European project and affects European integration more generally. We argue that citizens’ understandings of the EU as institution are socially constructed and that communicative and discursive processes play an essential role in these construction processes. Identification and integration essentially depend on such shared social meanings. European studies increasingly recognize the importance of social constructivism and discourse as perspectives to better understand different aspects of European integration – a process through which new supra-national institutions and social identities emerge as well as existent local institutions and identities transform. Different from previous approaches, both social constructivism and a focus on discourse entail that institutions, as well as the identities of social actors, matter in a particular way. That is, they are not given or easy for any political elite to manipulate, rather they get shaped through ongoing social interactions with language playing a central role. Paying close attention to the complexities of integration as a transformative and discursive process seems to be a more promising approach than regarding integration as an exercise of ‘simple’ institutional design. We argue that in spite of the increased importance of social constructivist and discourse approaches in social sciences during the last 30 years, their applications in EU studies, which are more recent, continue to constitute a rather ‘closed’ scholarly field. In order to increase the empirical relevance of social constructivism and discourse in EU studies and beyond, we offer three contributions. First, we review extant literature in this scholarly domain. In particular, we find that work that has fruitfully utilised a social constructivist perspective has somehow spanned three main areas: a) integration as Europeanization of legal systems and norms, b) integration as the Europeanization of discourses on polity ideas and public debates about EU governance, and c) integration as the Europeanization of citizens’ identities and definitions of what ‘Europe’ means. Second, in order to open up this literature to interdisciplinary research we highlight overlaps and parallels especially to institutional organization theory that shares with this literature the social constructivist perspective and has been fruitfully used to analyse questions of institutional change and identity formation. Third and finally, we extend the analytical tool box by highlighting methods that can be used to explore integration and identification from a social constructive and discursive perspective.

Document type
Monograph (Technical Report)
Barberio, VitalianoWirtschaftsuniversität Wien0000-0002-2615-5006
Mollona, EdoardoUniversità di Bologna0000-0001-9496-8618
Pareschi, LucaUniversità di Bologna0000-0002-4402-9329
social constructivism, discursive approach, European Identity, European Integration, Topic Modeling
Deposit date
09 Mar 2017 08:28
Last modified
17 Jul 2019 09:15
Project name
PERCEIVE - Perception and Evaluation of Regional and Cohesion policies by Europeans and Identification with the Values of Europe
Funding program
EC - H2020

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