9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN29 Social Theory

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 European Society or European Societies? I Building AA, AA.326

Is there a European society? A sociological analysis of the theories of European integration

The process of European integration and its result - The European Communities (EC) and the European Union (EU) have been described, explained and predicted by a host of theories that belong to various branches of broadly conceived social sciences: international relations, economics, comparative politics, public policy, cultural studies, and, last but not least, sociology. The main theories of European integration include: functionalism, federalism, neofunctionalism, intergovermentalism, theory of economic integration, supranationalism, liberal intergovernmentalism, new institutionalism; multi-level governance approach, and constructivism. This paper will argue that although none of these theories has dealt with a European society, all of them have presupposed or implied its existence and have dealt with its aspects and components. Basing upon the analysis of the selected writings in the mainstream theories of integration, this paper will attempt to characterize the agents, institutions, structures and processes of a European society as presented in these theories. On examining the historical development of the integration theories as reflections of the integration processes, the paper will argue that the European society was emerging as the European Communities and European Union were developing. At present, its agents include national governments, EU institutions, regional and local governments, companies, and people. Its institutions comprise European politics, economy, law, social security, the media, and education. Its structures of different kinds exist at the supra-national, inter-governmental, and sub-national levels. Its processes range from "inter-state bargaining" to "creating new supra-national centres" to which "loyalties" are shifted, from the "free movement of goods, capital, services, and people" to cross-border and inter-state migrations; the processes that lead to the social construction of new positions, roles, interests, and identities. In 2009, fifty one years after the coming in force of the Treaty of Rome establishing the EC, when the EU expects the coming in force of its Reform Treaty - the Treaty of Lisbon, despite negative sentiments in regard of the EU detected by public opinion polls, the European society is a social reality alongside the European societies of the EU member states and non-member states.