Review Society

Dossier / European Citizenship on the March

European Union: Political Cultures, Languages and Civic Identities

About: Kraus, A Union of Diversity & Fligstein, Euro-Clash.

by Jean-Claude Barbier , 15 November 2010
with the support of FMSH

Examining and comparing recent books by Peter Kraus and Neil Fligstein, Jean-Claude Barbier explores scenarios for the future of the European Union. His analysis makes it clear that cultural issues, the formation of identities, and the issue of language all have a central role to play in the legitimation of the unique institutions of the EU.

  • Peter A. Kraus, A Union of Diversity: Language, Identity and Polity-Building in Europe, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008
  • Neil Fligstein, Euro-Clash: The EU, European Identity, and the Future of Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.

Sociology welcomes diversity, as the two books under review demonstrate, for it would probably be extremely difficult to find two such different treatments of the same sociological subject. The subject here is the European Union’s political future and legitimacy, along with a current topic of public debate in France on “national identities”. Both books are written by sociologists, and both are in English, Neil Fligstein being American, and the book by Peter Kraus, who speaks half a dozen European languages, being a translation of the German original, coming from his thesis in political science. But apart from having the same topic of research and the same discipline (European political sociology), the two books are completely different: in their definitions of the subject, in their methods, in the relations between their analyses and their normative positions, and, inevitably, in their conclusions.

Professor Kraus produces an original analysis in a field that is generally dominated by “neo-institutionalist” political science, by focusing his work on a topic that is ignored by most authors, the political significance of languages. This topic is all the more marginal now that everyone is subject to the imperative to publish in English. Professor Fligstein, on the other hand, calls for “a deeper sociology” of Europe (p. 137). He asserts that the project for European integration has always been “a social class project” (p. 251), and warns that “a rough division of people in Europe into three camps” (p. 250) at the heart of the EU will produce – insofar as it has not already done so – “clashes” among them, especially a clash between the rich and highly educated, and the less educated poor who do not travel. Wolfgang Streeck, who found Euroclash unconvincing, has ironically referred to the three camps as “the good, the undecided and the ugly” (2009, p. 546).

The title of Kraus’ book is a variation on a formula found in official EU rhetoric, which suffers from no shortage of grandiloquent texts and formulas exalting the diversity of this bit of the continent. Without making too much out of it other than a symbolic point, one cannot help noticing the allusion of Fligstein’s “clash” to Samuel P. Huntington’s famous book title. While in the case of Kraus, EU diversity is studied in a systematic way, in the case of Fligstein, the approach is universalistic, and signs of diversity are systematically minimized. This important contrast between the two authors can be explained at least in part by their different personal backgrounds. Neil Fligstein describes himself as an “outsider” vis-à-vis Europe, and, as Streeck notices, he displays the normative pro-EU bias that is widespread in North American universities (2009, p. 546). In contrast, Peter Kraus, a professor at the University of Helsinki, who is familiar with comparative European research, is an insider, who strives to separate his normative proposals for multilingualism from his political sociology analysis.

Both authors worry about the future of political Europe. Professor Fligstein addresses this question with various scenarios. He considers most negative the one in which unfavourable economic developments lead to the break-up of the EU, and most favourable the one in which European integration expands to include social policies. He sets out two other, intermediary scenarios, which seem to him the most likely ones: the first is pretty much a continuation of the current contours, while the second would see enhanced cooperation in industrial and budgetary policies. For his part, Peter Kraus has no hesitation in saying that the issue that will decide whether European integration continues is that of the conditions allowing the construction of “a legitimate political order” (p. 180). According to him, there is no chance that spillover effects will eventually make the process of market integration rub off onto the political culture. Taking this on board reduces his scenarios to a single alternative: either the EU finds ways to have “converging multilingualism” (p. 172) (we turn below to the definition of this term), which means that it constructs a real linguistic policy (or a “politics of language”, p. 198); or it does not manage to do that, and in this case, the current trends toward limited integration continue. After presenting the main contents of each of the two books, we will compare their contributions with regard to three of their common themes: Europeans’ identities, European politics, and the issue of languages.

Euroclash (Neil Fligstein)

Euroclash begins with a substantial chapter that describes the historical dynamics of European integration and introduces and expounds the author’s arguments. He is actually “amazed” at what has been accomplished, as much in the realm of economic and industrial achievements as in that of intra-European “communications”. In passing, we notice an important choice made by the author here: he pays attention especially to the media, to football and television, and to transactions taking place in tourist and business travel, particularly by professionals. He does not discuss trans-European political communication, either in the sense of the spin-doctoring profession, or in the sense of the political contents of communication, of deliberations and decisions. The main point of this chapter is to introduce the idea that there is arising in Europe, with little differentiation among the individual countries, a dynamic of “three camps” each with different interests in the process of integration. [1] The author here opts for a classical utilitarian explanation, according to which support for Europe is directly determined by the benefits that various relevant groups get out of it. Of the three camps, the upper class are the “winners”, opposed to the “losers”, and to the middle class, who are in between the other two. In his conclusion, the author suggests estimates of the numbers in the three camps: ten to fifteen percent of the population (including an unspecified portion of the young) in the first camp, and forty to fifty percent in each of the two others. In contrast to these latter two, what characterizes the winners is that they are Europeans, in favour of more trade and more international cooperation (p. 22). The intermediary camp is presented as constituting a “swing group” of “middle-class voters” (p. 253). This group wavers between commitment on the side of the winners, and on the side of the poor (“the most displaced by the EU”), who oppose more integration and want “a return to a national market with stronger social protection” (p. 22). One would never know from this book exactly what this “social protection” (or this “welfare system”) is, because the author is clearly not very familiar with it, at either the national or the EU level. [2] He rather cursorily and oddly looks on it as “privileges” supported by the camp of the poor, those of limited professional and intellectual education; thus, in his conclusion, he will say: “Any attempt to create a European welfare state would certainly run into citizen opposition if they felt that their privileges were likely to disappear” (p. 248). In short, this chapter presents the reasons why a clash among the camps is predictable, if not already happening.

Three chapters designed to illustrate the progress of the European project form nearly a third of the book. The first of these contains a succinct overview of the main institutions, the EU’s organizations and capacities, presented by the author as “an administrative nightmare” (p. 38). The second looks at the economic transformation of Europe, mainly to present a data base of European integration in terms of trade, investments, concentrations of firms and the inclusion of Europe in the international division of labour in the developed economies. Neither these topics nor those introduced in the third chapter have any direct relation to the argument of Euroclash. In fact the third chapter discusses the rhythm of coordination and integration in three areas: telecommunications (where the liberalization of the sector is described in great detail), military industries, and, more surprisingly, football. The author thinks that football is becoming more and more Europeanized, as part of an older internationalization, the history of which he recounts. His analysis is persuasive on the level of economic history, but it is more astonishing when he later goes back to football and takes it as a typical example of cultural homogenization and of “European identity” (p. 252, alongside second language use, frequent travel, and “popular culture”).

The central argument of Euroclash is then developed in three further chapters, over a hundred pages. This is the heart of the work. First comes the objective of producing a sociology of Europeans and their “identities” (“national and collective identities” at first, but then also “European identity”). The second of these chapters (What is European Society?) is dedicated to showing how a “European” society is being constituted (through immigration, the formation of associations, and the Europeanization of education, as well as through “popular culture”). The last chapter tackles European politics. The multiple identities of Europeans and the Europeanized forms of their sociability are themes that have inspired a proliferation of specialized literature, in several anglophone European journals. Professor Fligstein here decides to assemble a series of disparate data – for which he immediately apologizes (p. viii). George Ross has noted these data are “sometimes thin”, and “slim at best” (2009, p. 542). It is true that, for the purposes of seeing the emergence of a European society, the data introduced here are not very persuasive, because they are disparate and not at all located in the empirical contexts of the various countries. It is clearly out of proportion to base the analysis on data from less than a thousand trans-European associations, given that there are several million associations in EU member states, and moreover that several thousand lobbies act on the European Commission. The immigration data are interpreted in a contestable way. Likewise obviously out of proportion is the enthusiasm for the Erasmus program, which, far from having fulfilled its original expectations (the Commission had envisaged it covering ten percent of students) has not attained its objectives and, in spite of its high symbolic value, has remained marginal (covering only two percent of students). Even more clearly, the author overestimates achievements in the coordination of diplomas and in the Bologna Process. It is obvious that the author’s conclusions are not empirically related to the results actually attained, for he believes it possible to assert that the “educational elites” of the EU have all established reforms that guide primary, secondary and higher education towards the production of students whose diplomas will be recognized everywhere, who will know several languages, and who will learn the same history (p. 192). The idea that “popular culture” has been a route for the Europeanization of society is also weakly argued. Finding that, empirically, the “European media” are insufficiently convincing for his thesis, he makes an effort to show that, in spite of the dispersion of these media, their contents are becoming more homogeneous; however, his empirical examples, as far as the press goes, are limited to the business press and The Economist. The latter is among the weeklies that are the most ferociously hostile to any Europeanization that is not inspired by anglophone economistic universalism. In the realm of film and television, the Europeanization that Fligstein notices turns out to be that of the market, in which the products are mainly American (p. 205). That is hardly compelling evidence of the process of Europeanization.

A Union of Diversity (Peter Kraus)

The argument of A Union of Diversity is summarized very clearly in its first chapter. The “European question” is primarily a question of democracy, on the level of the member states as on that of the Union. Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the days of “technocratic” construction or of “permissive consensus” (permissive on the part of the people) with regard to this Union are gone, because of the rise of problems of legitimation of politics at what is still habitually called the “community” level (even though strictly speaking “Communities” no longer exist since what is known as the Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December 2009). While the Union has the form of a “political community”, its internal, “cultural-political” diversity is a given fact of immense importance, which is not going to fade away (p. 4). The “Monnet method” from the very outset of the European project constituted an adaptation to this given fact, and, Professor Kraus writes, it is not by chance that law has been the instrument of choice among those responsible for building Europe. European “cultural-political” diversity is not a matter of “primary” or “ethnic” identities, it is rather the consequence of the coexistence of a “plurality of interpretive contexts” that support “specific political cultures” (p. 8). The author rejects equally the “nationalists” and the “cosmopolitans”, the first because they think that this diversity will always be a problem, and the second because they underestimate its empirical effects in their search for legitimate solutions to “institutionalize” it. For Kraus, language is the realm that lets us think about what comes under the even larger realm of “identity politics”. It is not merely the instrumental aspects of language that must be taken in account, although they are of course essential to communication. The “expressive” or “meaningful” aspects of language must also be appreciated, and the question of language, being at the heart of the mutual comprehension among a people, and being also crucial for the recognition of cultural diversity, is at the basis of the possibility of both self-esteem and individual liberties, which are conditions for political democracy. This leads the author to emphasize the centrality of a political approach to European integration that takes account of the languages of Europeans.

Professor Kraus deals at some length with the possibility of a European “demos” and with national identities. The first of these topics furnishes an occasion to demonstrate the complexity of the debate that often takes the form of an argument about the EU’s “democratic deficit”. Here, Professor Kraus examines the roles of institutions, particularly the importance of the European Parliament, the assumption of referendums, and so on, in order to underline the following obstacles to a “deeper” political integration: the existence of a democratic community linked to the existence of boundaries – a theme that Maurizio Ferrera has explored in connection with the question of social protection (Ferrera, 2005), but that Kraus curiously does not refer to; the existence of collective experience lodged in history; some types of national identification that serve as the basis of a system of reciprocal obligations and of loyalties; and language as medium and condition for the possibility of mutual comprehension. Even if recourse to the traditional model of the nation-state is not applicable to the European project – here, the author refers to analyses of state formation by Stein Rokkan, among others – it is still possible to say that, without the territories of solidarity and reciprocity, with neither a common language nor a common cultural identification, “the foundations of political unity in the EU look precarious” (p. 36). The absence of a European demos is a concrete empirical problem, quite apart from any normative analyses attached to it. The second topic of the first part of the book addresses the question of identities, which will figure in the comparative discussion in the next paragraph below. Kraus is concerned with the “challenge” of the possibility of democracy on the European scale; he notes that the consequences of this challenge have been increasingly evident since the Maastricht referendum in 1992. In any case, this democracy can only be “multi-level”, and the author underlines the importance of the principle of subsidiarity, which has up to now left the bulk of both economic policy (in spite of the common currency and the Maastricht convergence criteria) and, especially, of social policy to be exercised at the national level. The undeniable augmentation of the role, the powers and the place of the European Parliament is not enough to meet this “challenge”, any more than are the current limited ideas of organizing, for example, transnational consultative referendums. The separation of EU politics from the central role of the member nation-states in political regulation remains an undeniable reality, displayed among other ways by the persistence of diversity in their legal systems. A practicable path for solidarity at the supranational level in the EU has not yet been found, and, whatever may be the limits of these nation-states which are incapable of responding to global challenges, territorial boundaries remain the basis for feelings of reciprocity and identity.

Europeans’ identifications/identities

The question of identities/identifications is naturally at the centre of our two authors’ analyses. In this context Professors Fligstein and Kraus opportunely remind us of the work of Karl Deutsch, Ernest Gellner and Benedict Anderson. On the empirical level, like all researchers, they are unfortunately limited by the constraints posed by their professional tool, the international survey, which is expensive, partial, disputable, and methodologically difficult to utilize. Like all of us, they depend on the Eurobarometer surveys (Fligstein limits his analysis to data from the 2004 cycle). Recent data are available that, considered as part of the longer history, demonstrate a great stability in the responses of interviewees as to the balancing of their multiple “identities” – here it would doubtless be better to talk of identification – if indeed any such measurement is acceptable. In fact, the fragility and relativity of responses in relation to the questions asked is well known (Barbier, 2008, p. 49-52). In any event, it is difficult to come up with anything new if we study identity/identification only through international surveys, which simultaneously show the rarity of primary (or exclusive) identification with the European level (Kraus, p. 50-57, clearly demonstrates this rarity, as well as the very weak levels of European identification in the United Kingdom); the incontestable dominance of national identifications over others (with rare exceptions, such as in the case of Belgium); and the great divergence of identifications among the different countries, which furthermore at this level are subject to short-term changes. These are the points that Professor Kraus conversely emphasizes, in the sections where he shows the “limits of European identity”, based on the same Eurobarometer data, considered in the longer stretch of time.

For his argument in Euroclash, Professor Fligstein is particularly interested in the case for the social polarization of “European” attitudes; thus he does not linger over the issue of the objectification of Europeans’ mainly national loyalties. Nevertheless this is one of the essential points that comes out of these surveys of limited validity, the principal lesson of which is the stability of the observed identifications. The case for the polarization of feelings about Europe within each country is widely known, and numerous works have analysed in greater detail the practical aspects of the limited Europeanization of politics (Costa and Magnette, 2007). Thus, Bruno Cautrès and Gérard Grunberg (2007) have demonstrated the existence of an “elitist bias” in attitudes, with more educated and higher-income individuals being more in favour of Europeanization. Yet, what these authors also showed was the close connection between “feelings of national identity and support for Europe” (ibid., p. 31), and likewise the link between this identity and a relationship to “social benefits”, i.e. the importance of social protection. The peoples of the member states of the EU (if here too we restrict ourselves to objectification by Eurobarometer surveys) are attached to the existence of social protection, as the British example constantly shows; and yet at the same time they have different opinions about the comparative performance of their systems, the French and Belgians being those who, by overwhelming majorities at the end of the 2000s, believe that their national systems could serve as models for foreigners (for an example with recent data, see Eurobarometer no. 71, 2009).

Professor Fligstein departs from this by choosing to draw from his statistical analyses the argument that the small number of those who are “more favorable” to Europe are those who have benefited from the advantages of Europeanization, and that in the future this number will grow because of mobility and higher levels of education, particularly among the young. Here he seems to reason as if, instead of separate national cultivation of identifications and attachments (in particular, to social protection), there existed in Europe truly transnational groups – his “three camps”. His ignorance about social protection, the importance of which was apparent in the works of Cautrès and Grunberg and many others, is very damaging. In contrast, Professor Kraus, who admittedly does not give a detailed account of social protection, does emphasize the fact that what he calls “cultural identity” is a visible expression of “politically institutionalized cultural practices” (p. 38). Identity, arising in all its complexity from a sociological process of identification, cannot be summarized by the expression of opinions inspired by Eurobarometer questionnaires. On this point, Professor Fligstein, like Rogers Brubaker before him, considers that the construction of national identities (and, more generally, of national, empirical and sociological communities: cf. Barbier, 2008, p. 38-41) is the contingent result of the strategies of elites that persuade populations that they belong to a nation (Fligstein, ibid., p. 4). Very differently, Professor Kraus welcomes the empirical fact of the complexity of identity-related and cultural (“expressive”) phenomena, as preconditions of the political community and of its capacity to handle within itself the conflicts and differences. He offers a detailed description of the way in which a problematic “European identity” was viewed by the political class in what was still “the European Communities”, and of its very embryonic development. He points out the stages and the legal bases since the 1970s, beginning with the treaty that recognized the equality of the languages and the egalitarian diversity of the cultures. He recalls the adoption of the important relevant texts, with particular attention to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU [3], adopted at the Nice summit in 2000 and recently again highlighted by the reference made to it in Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty. Among the fundamental rights, he singles out individuals’ rights to the recognition and practice of their language, and various traces of that recognition in the treaties, which for him comes into the story only in the form of a second language. Instead of confining the issue to an opposition between federalism and intergovernmentalism, Professor Kraus treats the issue of cultural-political change in Europe as an empirical given, which is not going to go away in the empirical situation of the current nation-states, and which needs to be handled institutionally and politically, in a languages policy.

Conceptions of European politics / politics in Europe

The issue of “European politics” (singular or plural) separates our two authors in plenty of ways that we do not have time to go into here. The English term itself, which does not obviously translate into French, causes particular difficulties when applied to the EU. Recall Vivien Schmidt’s formulation (2006), according to which at the community level there are “policies without politics”, while at the national level there are “politics without policies”. Although this is a striking expression, it leads up to a partial analysis. The empirical reality is so different from this summary that, as Professor Kraus emphasizes, problems of legitimation are increasing: there certainly is/are politics at the community level, but operating under other forms than at the national level; precisely this fact is one of the key points for us to reflect upon. “Community” politics is cut off from the “demos”, while, whatever the limits of contemporary democracy (familiar to everyone, and often recalled by Schmidt), the coupling of stakeholding with participation in day-to-day politics and elections takes place only at the national level. It is here that the more general conception of what politics is comes into our two authors’ stories in a blatant way. For Professor Kraus, who devotes a chapter to it, there is no doubt that the very practice of politics by citizens, including by diverse elites, is bound up with language, which makes communication possible. Even if he notes that the “politicization of language” is contemporary with the coming of nations, his observations go farther when he notes that politics can take place only in an “expressive” dimension (which one could also say with Max Weber is “meaningful”, or associate with the idea of “common meanings” of Charles Taylor, whom the author cites). By contrast, this dimension does not appear in Professor Fligstein’s analysis, which at bottom favours a vision of class, consigning the European project to the category of “class projects”. In this way an essential element gets ignored in his account of the “structure of European politics” in his last chapter: the national political communities function each for itself, and the empirical barriers that surround them and relatively confine them, are also an opportunity to build solidarities and strong interdependencies between the elites (the camp of the winners) and the rest of their society, at the national level. Typical among such solidarities and interdependencies is the system of social protection, which in the main is treated in a negatively and caricatural way by Professor Fligstein (see the remarks of Streeck, 2009). Euroclash thus appears singularly unreal, for the three camps are considered for the most part as if they formed a homogeneous political entity; but, as François Foret (2007, p. 208) has rightly noted, the elites who are the winners cannot be considered as “isolates”. There are indeed many forums and arenas where the idea of a “field”, suggested by Professor Fligstein (“an arena of social interaction where organized individuals or groups such as interest groups, states, firms, and non-governmental organizations routinely interact”, p. 8), can be used, but on condition that it is clearly specified since, as Professor Kraus emphatically points out, the European political space is not one single public space (in other words, except at a very great degree of generality, unrelated to ordinary politics, there is no Öffentlichkeit at the European level). Here, Professor Kraus discusses in detail the conceptions of Jürgen Habermas and of the German constitutionalist Dieter Grimm. He takes issue with each of them, for the aspect that each underestimates: for Grimm, the possibility of communication that is not strictly confined to language; and for Habermas, the inexistence of a homogeneous and functional public space. Again, Professor Kraus’ contribution is to emphasize in a comparative way the empirical examples of multilingualism in the world (Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, but also, less expectedly, Finland, with its practice of language with widespread Swedish-Finnish diglossia, and plurilingual situations in member states). With regard to the public space, Professor Kraus’ data pose a contradiction to Professor Fligstein’s analyses, for example in the area of the press. In place of the homogenization normatively wished for by the latter, the former notices the persistence of linguistic zones of diffusion and differentiated treatment – one could say differentiated construction – of news and current affairs. Kraus tells us that not even the observed revival of the treatment of “European issues” is enough to justify talk of a renewed cultural-political communication that would put us in a position to deliberate about a “common good” within a framework supporting social cohesion (p. 151). Not only do barriers to the common practice of politics arise from empirical constraints, but moreover the factors influencing that practice cannot be reduced to decisions as to whether or not people have benefited from Europeanization, though that is the argument constantly repeated by Fligstein, with a clear propensity (in this area) to see rational actors. If it has really been established that in fact education and income are determinants of European opinions of citizens in the various member states, their choice with regard to Europe is also to locate in their national framework, not only as Professor Fligstein suggests, for the poorer and less educated, who will try to save their “privileges” in the face of liberalization, but, really rather for the societies as a whole (with the exception of a tiny minority able to exempt themselves from financing social protection). These spaces of solidarity and reciprocity have been thoroughly studied by Bo Rothstein (1998) and several of his Scandinavian colleagues. From this point of view, if there is a Euroclash, it will not consist of a simple opposition of Europeanized elites versus the poor, or of young people who travel versus old nationalists; it will be a mosaic of very real confrontations between elites and other social layers, country by country, as is very well illustrated by current manifestations of ethno-nationalist populism in several countries, manifestations in fact very weakly coordinated, and the influences on which, in part temporary, have always had distinctly national characteristics.

The central importance of languages in the European Union

The political analyses of the two authors are thus very different, and we shall end this comparative perspective on them where they in their contrasting ways began it, with the linguistic question. In Professor Fligstein’s book, languages are approached in a superficial way, the attention of that book being in a way polarized by the necessity of proving the sociological existence of the three “camps”. Like all researchers, he, the same as Professor Kraus, uses data from Eurobarometer surveys, which in spite of their limits – noted by both authors – are in a way established as the data of “first resort”. However, Professor Fligstein is convinced by the analysis of the European Commission, which in analysing the surveys that it commissions tends to embellish intra-European cosmopolitanism. Indeed, if in fact it appears that more than one of every two Europeans says he uses a second language, this is not the real message. For one thing, we have here a very ambiguous measurement, done on the basis of self-declaration by people who use their second language “when travelling” or “while watching television”. For another and especially important thing, these averages mask immense inequalities, between social categories, between men and women, between countries, between languages (Barbier, 2008, p. 251-258). Contrarily to this optimistic vision, the use of second languages is still very limited. Professor Kraus discusses the opposition between official multilingualism and the much more prosaic reality of the use of the English as a second language, which accompanies the persistent usage of national languages. What he shows is that the issue is not simply that of “foreign languages”, of the languages of “others”, but is primarily that of linguistic policies, both at the national level (he displays the diverse moorings of these policies within national frameworks, which Professor Fligstein’s survey does not go into) and at the “community” level.

From this emerges the proposal for a “converging multilingualism”, which constitutes the most important normative proposal in the conclusion of Professor Kraus’ book. In passing, he hopes that the widening towards central Europe favours the multilingual camp. His analysis rests on several observations. In the first place, the spontaneous usage of international English as a lingua franca cannot be considered neutral, and poses problems of justice. In the second place, the generalization of this usage, if it pushed ahead, would pose problems both in politics and in the shrinkage of European cultural resources, in spite of the interested support by the British and the campaign orchestrated to denounce the cost of multilingualism. (Professor Kraus here cites François Grin, who demonstrates both the considerable British benefit in the current situation and the fact that the “all English” option is not systematically the least costly.) Thirdly, the inherent limits of international English – which, in addition, are noxious to authentic English – make this lingua franca ill adapted for a great variety of human activities, politics being chief among them, but also human relations more generally. (Professor Kraus develops the analysis of the weakness of instrumental views of language that reduce it to the function of a code, ignoring expressivity.) Finally, the political treatment of the equality of languages is loaded with possibilities of conflict. The recent ethno-nationalist populism in several countries is an example of this, but this issue should become more visible in the future. It could easily be included in Professor Fligstein’s analysis, should he envisage empirically specifying variants of possible Euroclashes crystallizing in the future at the national level, in linguistic conflicts, for which the current conflict in Belgium seems emblematic. The principle of “converging multilingualism”, in contrast, is aimed at promoting situations of diglossia or of bi- and trilingualism, varying in relation to the sociocultural situations (for example in the Latin context, the Scandinavian context, the Germanic context, etc.). From this point of view, the current weakness of the promotion of multilingualism, under the cover of systematic symbolic homage to high European culture, worries Professor Kraus. That a European (community) policy is still to be constructed is the conclusion of his book, which ends by considering citizens’ increasing need for recognition, which means in part for the recognition of linguistic diversity (including for regional and minority languages). This recognition, as well as innovative application of the principle of subsidiarity in the linguistic domain, seems to him to be part of the necessary “politicization” of linguistic issues which have never been systematically thematized as objects of explicit interventions, and still less as funded policies – apart from interpreting and a few prestige or “high culture” operations. In the end it is because integrated Europe needs legitimacy that it cannot avoid the question of its languages and its cultural-political diversity. Professor Kraus presents this necessity as a particular case of the growth of “reflexivity” in the area of cultural diversity, and as a major challenge. This conclusion jars with that of Professor Fligstein’s book, which opposes rather disembodied winners and losers contemplating the calculable advantages that they have received or potentially will receive from European integration.

This article was first published in, jointly with the journal Sociologie. It was translated from French by John Zvesper with the support of the Foundation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.

Dossier's Articles

by Jean-Claude Barbier, 15 November 2010

Further reading

 Barbier, J.-C., La Longue marche vers l’Europe sociale, Paris, PUF “Le lien social”, 2008.

 Costa, O. & Magnette, P., dir., Une Europe des élites? Réflexions sur la fracture démocratique de l’Union européenne, Bruxelles, Éditions de l’université de Bruxelles, 2007.

 Cautrès, B. et Grunberg, G., “Position sociale, identité nationale et attitudes à l’égard de l’Europe, la construction européenne souffre-t-elle d’un biais élitiste”, in O. Costa & P. Magnette, dir., Une Europe des élites? Réflexions sur la fracture démocratique de l’Union européenne, Bruxelles, Éditions de l’université de Bruxelles, 2007, p. 12-31.

 Ferrera, M., The Boundaries of Welfare: European Integration and the New Spatial Politics of Social Protection, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.

 Foret, F., “La dimension élitaire dans la légitimation européenne”, in O. Costa & P. Magnette, dir., Une Europe des élites? Réflexions sur la fracture démocratique de l’Union européenne, Bruxelles, Éditions de l’université de Bruxelles, 2007, p. 203-223.

 Ross, G., “Review Symposium”, Socio-Economic Review, 2009, 7, p. 540-545.- Rothstein, B., Just Institutions Matter: The Moral and Political Logic of the Universal Welfare State, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

 Schmidt, V. A., Democracy in Europe, EU and National Polities, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.

 Streeck, W., “Review Symposium”, Socio-Economic Review, 2009, 7, p. 545-552.

To quote this article :

Jean-Claude Barbier, « European Union: Political Cultures, Languages and Civic Identities », Books and Ideas , 15 November 2010. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

Nota Bene:

If you want to discuss this essay further, you can send a proposal to the editorial team (redaction at We will get back to you as soon as possible.


[1This lack of differentiation is in contradiction with the empirical fact, which is noted but not explained by the author, of the diverging propensities of electors – for example in Germany as opposed to Great Britain – to accept more of the federal kind of European integration.

[2The author repeats, in a rather paradoxical fashion, the traditional political science argument that, in order to stay in power, governments get possessive about capacities to deal with social protection: social protection acts as the sweetener that governments give their electorates to induce them go along with the liberalization of the large market (p. 35).

[3Professor Fligstein attaches no importance to this aspect of fundamental rights.

Our partners

© - Any replication forbidden without the explicit consent of the editors. - Mentions légales - webdesign : Abel Poucet