Europe as a Philosophical Idea and Political Subject

fundamental research project

The current discussions about the crisis in Europe and about possible solutions at the level of state institutions, humanitarian organisations and civil society, as well as reactions to suggested solutions, such as protest movements, new forms of nationalism and populism, have generated a new dilemma: Is the project of European integration, which was considered a new model of transnational democracy and sovereignty, a failed project and should we consequently "finish with Europe", or should we strive to establish "another Europe," on new political and philosophical foundations?

In contrast to the approach shared by the great majority of current economic, political and cultural analyses of the current crisis of European integration, centred on questions of how the EU works or fails to work, as well as in contrast the crisis discourse, where, under daily political pressures, solutions to solutions to problems are sought for within the existing framework, which prevents any productive solution to the crisis, we argue that, because a united Europe is an entity in the making, its preservation and development require ceaseless social, political, cultural, economic and, above all, philosophical inventions.

Our initial hypothesis that the unsatisfactory philosophical foundation of Europe as a political subject (which can only be constituted if it rests on the idea of Europe) is an integral part of the current crisis of the European political project implies that we cannot think of Europe as a political project in isolation from Europe as a philosophical project. The economic, political and social crisis of the European project with which we are faced today is therefore also a crisis of philosophical reflection on the idea of Europe and of Europe as a political subject resting on that idea. The goal of our project, however, is not to suggest in undisputable idea of Europe that could serve as the basis for future integration processes, but rather to contribute to a rethinking of the very relationship between the idea and subjectivation. That relationship is based upon an understanding of the idea as a starting point in becoming and of the subject as shifting the limits of the politically possible.

The proposed philosophical analysis of the roots of the current European crisis will be conducted on three levels:

1. Anchoring our reflection on Europe as a political subject in the idea of Europe, we will reconstruct it in its historical trajectory and present complexities;

2. we will analyse the nature of the current crisis of Europe and carefully examine how, and to what extent, is the crisis rooted in the constitution of the EU;

3. since the philosophical foundation of Europe as a political subject in the idea of Europe requires a critical systematic rethinking of the philosophical concept of the subject in its various aspects, our third objective is an in‐depth analysis of philosophical and psychoanalytical theories of the subject, and elaboration of a general theory of the subject that would adequately meet the need for reflection on Europe as a political subject.

The overarching goal of the project is to elaborate a concept of Europe as a political subject that is constituted as an emancipatory, egalitarian-universal intervention into the political situation and that forms the idea of Europe in becoming.

In addition, yet in accordance with the main project hypothesis, which brings to the fore the idea of Europe as the foundation of Europe as a democratic political subject, this project seeks to delineate philosophy's role in clarifying the causes for the current European crisis and make an important contribution to the building of a philosophical and political platform for the reinvention of democracy in Europe.

Project steps

The project is divided into three work packages, with a fourth work package dealing with the dissemination of research results. A three-year timetable is given for each of the packages.

Work Package 1: The Historical Trajectory of the Idea of Europe

In the first year we will summarise the ancient and medieval notions of Europe. We will focus on the historical process in which the initial Greek concept of Europe was transferred to the West, Christianised, and turned polemically against the lands of its origin (the Balkans as the area of negative identification). In the second year we will identify the "European moment", when the Renaissance humanists invented the political concept of Europe still in use today, and study the philosophical foundations of the idea of Europe through World War II. In this context, we will analyse the divergent views of Karl Marx and Bruno Bauer on relations between Europe and Russia from the 1850s. In the third year we will study the introduction of the political and economic dimension into debates on the political constitution of Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, and the fate of the history of the idea of Europe in the period of the intensified integration processes following the Second World War.

Work Package 2: European Crisis, (Neo)liberalism, and Democracy

In the first year, building on our previous research, we will analyse the structural characteristics of the current triple crisis in Europe by linking each aspect of if (the debt economy, migration and refugee issue, the Brexit vote) to the endemic constitutional deficit in the EU. In the second year we will study the de-constitution of the EU from a double perspective: as a critical, negative process of dismantling of the EU, accelerated by the crisis, and, at the same time, as a possibility for a true, democratic re-constitution of Europe. In the third year we will work on a synthesis of the research results, the axis of which will be a reworking of the choice between a "Europe done to the people" and a "Europe done with the people", a choice brought forth by the complex and uneven development of the current situation in Europe.

Work Package 3: Theories of Subject

In the first year we will study the philosophical foundations of the conceptualisation of the subject and the collective, as deriving from Kant's concept of reflective judgement, Hegel's concept of the spirit, and Freudian mass psychology. In the second year we will turn to key contemporary philosophical contributions to the question of political subjectivity, while in the field of psychoanalysis we will outline relations between the masses and other manifestations of the collective in Freud and Lacan. In the third year we will build on the overall results of the project to study the relation between the conceptualisation of the (collective) subject and the conceptualisation of the (European) idea. Throughout all three years we will work on an alternative mapping of the European political situation and on theorising from within current political, economic and social developments.

Work Package 4: Dissemination

The Research findings resulting from all three work packages will be published in national and international scientific journals and presented at scientific meetings. At the end of each research year an international conference will be organised at which the research results will be presented in a systematic manner. We will present the project to the public on an ongoing basis. The final findings of the project will be addressed to important political institutions.

political constitution
Europe as a political subject
Idea of Europe
European crisis