A Political Theory of Identity in European Integration: Memory and Policies

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In starker terms, it can be argued that collective identity can be conceptualized as secular, civic and inclusive-pluralist on the one hand, and in terms of consanguinity, religion, and ethno-nationalist exclusiveness on the other. We should further recognize that a sense of home does not have to be based on written sources and unquestioned elements of collective memory. Rather, it depends to a large extent on enacted ceremonial performances, commemorative rituals, language and formalities that regularly charge our emotional batteries and renew our sense of belonging. Since the state has become the "standard" unit for political authority in Europe, nationalist thought has constructed a collective identity within the specific boundaries of national territory.

This is how nation-states have throughout the centuries developed and cultivated the strong bonds of community. Roland Robertson has argued that during the intense phase of globalization that took place between and , European states responded with an extreme form of nationalism and a "willful nostalgia" in an effort to shelter their societies and cultures from the "outside". These were new rites celebrating a "glorious past" and based on readings of traditions and culture that sought to integrate and standardize citizens' loyalty to the nation-state and the national idea l.

Scottish nationalism, for example, is a modern phenomenon, which celebrates its clan culture through kilts and bagpipes in an effort to distinguish itself from increasing convergence with England within the United Kingdom. The fear of becoming "British" has set off an emphasis on Scottishness - real or imagined, based on history or modern fabrications. This "invention of tradition", often going hand-in-hand with the "monumentalization of the past", obfuscates that states are rather formal constitutional arrangements only occasionally based on a genuine collective heritage.

But more often than not, states are products of the imagination, rather than "objectively" and "empirically" verifiable communities of interest and identity. The fear of being overwhelmed by a Europeanized culture which questions the legitimacy of national habits, mores and traditions often reinforces localism, regionalism as well as nationalism.

This is clearly noticeable in contemporary Europe. It is a paradox. Where the nation state can less deliver than ever before in history, a growing part of our citizens focus their affections on the nation state. And that is not without logic: because man does not live by bread alone. In a time of growing alienation the abstract European institutions, remote as they seem, are unable to attract the imagination and affection of our people.

These alternative communities do not have to be organized on a territorial basis, but may well be within a religious community or a societal group. I see no reason why the nation-state would have the monopoly of "home", and would be the single merchant of "belonging". Should we conceive the European project "as a dynamic and often contradictory process the final shape or telos of which is indeterminate, rather than teleological.

Within the EU, the "classical" economistic notion of power no longer makes sense and only limits our understanding of the policy formation process. The EU is a complex composite and hybridized political entity defined by betweenness and multi-cultural diversity. But how to read this novel political entity? How to influence the direction of this process and the policy outcomes of the decision making body? Europeanization is therefore often accompanied by a certain sense of dislocation, displacement and puzzlement. This is not to say that Europe is foreign to us, particularly since all European societies are in one way or other an integral part of this political community.

But it certainly problematizes our national identity and forces us to think how Europe resonates in our political understanding of the Self. This increasing political homelessness has given rise to what has been called "identity politics", which refers to the notion of accepting and pursuing politics in terms of gender, sexuality, race, region, state or continent, or other spatial or non-spatial terms of reference. Identity politics is based on a demand for authenticity, insisting on the right of those previously invisible and unrecognized to receive opportunities for self-realization.

Identity politics has in most cases been a strategy and compensatory technique to draw attention to underprivileged groups, and has often led to more fragmentation, divisiveness and a continuous lack of unity. Postmodern scholars have further problematized the subjective construction of particular identities, arguing that these different factors as race, gender, class and sexual preference can not be regarded separately and that any attempt to prioritize such factors would simply be another dimension of a totalizing and dominating essentialism.

Essentialist politics therefore views that some relations are more important than others i. It is a sustained effort to invent an all-embracing "imagined community" on a continental scale. Technology homogenizes time and space, creating global images that erode established categories of identity.

As a result, people have begun to imagine "new communities" apart from the traditional nation-state, new "homes" based on new social epistemes i. It will also increasingly call for new, looser senses of political affiliation to manifest themselves on the supranational level. In this sense, Europe calls for an identity politics of affinity, rather than a parochialized, narrow sense of Self.

Michael Ignatieff has correctly noted that as a matter of historical fact, "Europe does not stand for toleration any more than it stands for ethnic cleansing.

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The doctrine of toleration is a European invention, but so is the concentration camp. This raises the further question whether Europe could provide its many and diverse peoples with a new sense of belonging, probably not based on Smith's notion of "shared memory", but on a foundation of common sedimented experiences, cultural forms which are associated, however loosely, with a place called "Europe"? Perhaps the only way of achieving this aim is not to stress collective memory, but rather collective amnesia in an effort to collectively forget the centuries of strife and conflict among European peoples and states?

This would call for what Zygmunt Bauman has labeled a "palimpsest identity", which is "the kind of identity which fits the world in which the art of forgetting is an asset no less, if no more, important than the art of memorizing". It is the kind of identity "in which forgetting rather than learning is the condition of continuous fitness, in which ever new things and people enter and exit without rhyme or reason".

This would follow the postmodern understanding of culture as a superficial decoration, as a capricious and calculated play with European ethnic and folk-motifs to festoon and beautify what is in essence a scientific and technocratic culture. Although the act of forgetting may seem a somewhat artificial and insincere method of advancing a European identity, it should be recalled that nation-states have over the centuries practiced a complex and dialectic policy of both remembering and forgetting in their efforts to produce nationalism and a sense of belonging.

Ernest Renan has claimed that forgetting has been "a crucial element in the creation of nations", and that once a nation has been established, it very much depends for its continued existence upon a collective amnesia. The history of nation-building and nationalism therefore illustrates that identity-formation by definition involves active and often enforced collective amnesia.

Although the EU is unlikely to enforce such a collective process of forgetting, it does ask for a shift in allegiance and solidarity which ipso facto implies a weakened link between citizens and "their" nation-state. But on what cultural basis can such a European identity rest? The view that Europe is culturally superior is offensive, and the idea that European values and norms should be spread around the world for the benefit of other cultures is in itself imperialistic and misleading.

This view of a culturally superior and economically supreme "Europe" became dominant with the ideas of the Enlightenment, a period in which the consciousness of Europe reached new and unprecedented heights. The industrialization of European society and the newly generated wealth, new technologies and commensurate military prowess put Europe in the position of global leadership, which has nurtured the sense of cultural aloofness and feelings of European "specialness", if not "chosenness". During this historic period, the myth of "Europe" was solidified.

But such a reading of history obviously excludes other cultural centers of gravity from the equation China and the Muslim world, for example , and ignores the valuable inputs of other cultures on what we now know as "European civilization". We should also question the political consequences of a replication of the process of identity-construction and "organic community"-building within an EU-framework. There is certainly a risk that such a European Gemeinschaft will merely legitimize exclusion based on clear-cut division between "us" and "them".

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This is especially the case since the social construction of identity is such an indivisible part of the discourse on security. Security, therefore, is also about the creation of a political identity in an "imagined community", usually within the boundaries of the nation-state. Europe's identity is therefore an integral part of the wider discourse on Europe's home and outer security, inevitably implying a sense of alterity and, ultimately, enmity. How may the discourse on Europe's identity be kept on a prosaic, rather than a securitized, heroic level?

The ethno-national approach of Smith toward the construction of a European Gemeinschaft with all the traditional paraphernalia of statehood ranging from shared myths and memories to an anthem and European flag, will not offer a genuine alternative. It may perhaps not hurt although even that remains to be seen , but it will certainly not do the trick by itself. A civic, rather than an ethno-national approach to nationalism and citizenship, unquestionably offers a better opportunity for building an open Euro-polity.

This is exactly the reason why the EU Member States have decided to set up a Europe of the Regions at the same time as further steps toward Europeanization were taken at Maastricht in It is this appreciation of diversity that has formed, and should continue to form, the basis for a nascent European political community.

This Europe will remain a cultural potpourri, even if national allegiances may face fierce competition from calls for regional and overarching European loyalties. This would also be a sound basis for a nascent European citizenship. We should therefore accept that "the uniqueness of the European Union order in the making requires new conceptual tools and a fundamental rethinking of standard models. Its identity can not be realized by talking about it, it can not be grasped theoretically, but can only be derived from practice. European identity is an act, which can experience the continuous redefinition of itself only through relationships with others.

This, rather than a narrow-minded and narrow conception of "Europeanness", should form the platform for a new, civic European identity. Accepting this notion has, of course, significant political ramifications. Turning "Europeanness" as a postmodern badge of privilege and superiority, as a new marker of pride and dignity, would risk emulating the trappings of nationalism on a European level, rather than grasping the opportunity to develop something qualitatively new.

Would it, for example, really make such a difference whether we hear "Europe for the Europeans" or "Germany for the Germans" as slogans in the discourse of the extremist Right? But if "Europe" is not for the "Europeans", for whom is it? And, what is more, who should be the prime movers for advocating the European identity in the increasingly competitive marketplace of ideas and symbols? Engineers of the European Soul Europe's founding fathers' long-term goal was to unite the peoples of Europe, not only - or even primarily - uniting Europe's nation-states.

With the increasing politicization of European integration, the problem of "European identity" has become essential: unless the peoples of Europe feel some genuine attachment to the EU and the European project, the possibilities for developing an effective and democratic Union will be constrained. European policy makers have from the onset understood that further steps toward the ultimate goal of a Federal Europe would require more than incremental change.

Merely keeping the Functionalist machinery of spill-over moving will be insufficient. Robert Schuman therefore argued in that a "true community requires at least some specific affinities. Countries do not combine when they do not feel among themselves something common, and what must above all be common is a minimum of confidence. There must also be a minimal identity of interests, without which one attains mere co-existence, not cooperation.

Jacques Delors has famously noted that "Europeans will not fall in love with a Common Market". Especially since European integration increasingly touches directly on the boundaries of traditional state sovereignty, there is a growing need to strengthen the public's identification with "Europe".

Hence the official goals of fostering a European "we-feeling" and forging a "European identity" of sorts. Europe is to become one of the "imagined communities" for those who live in the EU-space. But by turning itself into such an "imagined community", the EU depends upon its existence on a multitude of collective acts of imagining as well as forgetting , that mainly find their expression through the media, culture as well as politics.

This implies that the new Euro-polity can only exist or come into existence by using the means of communication to make such a collective imagining as well as collective amnesia feasible. This means that in many respects, the process of Europeanization remains an elite-driven project. The regular Eurobarometer opinion polls, conducted by the European Commission, invariably register a steady and broad support among the European population for the European project in all its different facets.

Although this popular support for Europeanization is an important political factor, James Caporaso already warned us in the s that public opinion polls may deceive political elites since the argument could be made that "the concept of Europe is popular precisely because it is only dimly perceived and affects Europeans everyday lives only peripherally. This can partly be explained by the fact that until the mids, European integration has been perceived as first and foremost an economic project, not directly touching upon the core values of its constituent peoples.

Through the decades, Europe's collective identity has developed hand in hand with an institutionalized "culture of cooperation". But although this consociational culture is crucial to understanding contemporary Europe, and the European integration project in particular, it has ipso facto remained an elite affaire. For example, since the Maastricht Treaty, EU nationals can now take pride in their new European citizenship, which should have added a certain civic element to the development of a new community of European peoples. In this context, Brigid Laffan has suggested three dimensions of the EU's top-down policies designed to embellish Europe's identity: 1 the development of rights and citizenship; 2 the politics of "belonging" and symbols; and 3 the development and support for cross-national networks and cooperation.

From the earlys onward, the notion of the cultural underpinnings of the EC has been widely discussed, also within the Brussels bureaucracy. Numerous declarations to blow life in these notions have been aired during the s, which resulted in the introduction of a European Flag which shows a circle of twelve five-pointed golden stars set against an azure background , as well as an anthem Schiller's Ode to Joy , as set to the music in the final movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony , and other paraphernalia symbolizing Europe's "identity".

It is now visible everywhere on public buildings, and during festivities and official meetings it flies next to national and regional flags. It decorates most license-plates of cars registered in the EU and in many ways it has become a natural part of the European scenery; it can hardly be overlooked. In itself, this flag means little, but as usual there is a deeper narrative behind even the most innocuous of symbols. In his famous work Visual Thinking , Rudolf Arnheim has pointed out that the "image of the sphere has been used through the ages to depict physical, biological, and philosophical phenomena.

Roundness is chosen spontaneously and universally to represent something that has no shape, no definite shape, or all shapes. Initially, the twelve golden stars symbolized the then twelve EU Member States, which brings to mind the metaphor of Thomas Mann in his novel Buddenbrooks that stars will shine brightest when their actual power has already subsided. The basic political and psychological idea behind the introduction of these European symbols is to gradually modify the consciousness of the peoples of Europe of the political entity to which they belong.

Michael Billig has made a case that this "banal nationalism" is important since "[d]aily, the nation is indicated, or 'flagged', in the lives of its citizens. Nationalism, far from being an intermittent mood in established [West European] nations, is the endemic condition. But, as Billig argues, this reminding of the West European notion of nationalism "is so familiar, so continual, that it is not consciously registered as reminding.

All English textbooks value the economic side of European integration positively. The EU is represented as a powerful trading bloc that benefits both its companies and its citizens. On the other hand, all the textbooks express some kind of criticism towards the European project. The analysis of the transformation of the English representation see Table 2 shows that the ambivalence of Europe seems to be a stable and non-transformable part of the European story. This core appears in all textbooks regardless of time and type of the textbook, while, for instance, the discourse of inside or outside of Europe is more typical for the older history textbooks, and is therefore regarded as a peripheral story.

Europe appears as a French construction; it is objectified and personified in France and in its former president Charles de Gaulle. By contrast, the US appears as the key partner of Britain, reflecting the British foreign policy of the past centuries: as Garton Ash , p. Whenever it is discussed, it is from the viewpoint of British interests. Europe is made sense of in relation to domestic policy, and such issues as common values and a European heritage are not discussed. European identity is not portrayed as an end in itself, but more as an instrument for fostering national identity.

In other words, the social representation of European integration is determined by its instrumentality to national interests, for example for the purposes of trade and domestic policy. The formation of the European Union has posed new kinds of civic and political questions about the definition of citizenship and nationality e. Although for the past 20 years a growing number of studies has shown the relevance of the social psychological study of European identity e.

This paper has aimed to show how European integration is described in the school textbooks of two of its member countries. The social representation approach e. The social representation approach allowed seeing how the images of European unification are built in the two countries by anchoring and objectifying the common project in similar and different ways.

A political theory of identity in European integration : memory and policies

In both countries the textbooks draw upon memories that are important for group identity. While the French textbooks make European integration meaningful with reference to a shared post-war collective memory and to a more ancient idea of Europe based on shared values and heritage, the English textbooks anchor it more strongly to domestic policy Assmann, ; Halbwachs, The founding story of the European unification based on the post-war visions and visionaries is constructed in the textbooks of both countries, but while the French are portrayed as the main actors of this story, the British are left without agency — they are outsiders or even the villains of the story.

Thus, European integration is objectified and equated with the French while the British are portrayed as the outsiders of Europe. However, compared with previous research on textbooks e. The focus of previous studies has not been on European identity, but on ethnic and national identity, which may explain these differences. In the present study, the most visible reference point for Europe was the United States. The EU-US relations were characterized as an alliance in the English textbooks and as an economic rivalry in the French textbooks.

In addition, the despots of the Second World War, as well as the threats of fascism and communism, appeared as European others. The wartime memories were manifested more strongly in the French textbooks, where peace provided the main anchoring point, the meaning, for the construction of the European integration process. European identity was not constructed against immigrants, refugees or the Turkish, as might have been anticipated e.

When it comes to the construction of European identity in textbooks, the economic Europe is hardly enough to make people feel attached to Europe. Neither is European identity built against its salient outgroups. Instead, the French textbooks bring up European values and heroes as a base for a European identity, but these are borrowed from French national symbolic resources and are thus exclusive rather than inclusive.

On the other hand, in the English textbooks the story of European integration is either silenced or controversial. European identity is not portrayed as an end in itself. This study furthermore aimed to demonstrate that social representations are always contextually constructed in the dynamic flow of history. One example of the power of context in shaping social representations can be traced back to the early years of the European integration process. While France was among the founding members of the European integration process, the UK failed in both its attempts to join the EEC in the s due to the resistance of the French president Charles de Gaulle.

As discussed previously, the English textbooks concretize the centuries-old narrative of troublesome British-French relations in the narrative of the unfortunate British membership negotiations, blocked by the French and their president. The narrative is maintained, repeated and transmitted from one generation to another through the English school textbooks. If we look at the present through the lenses of the past, we can at least speculate whether or not these negative memories have anything to do with the present ambivalent conceptions and attitudes concerning British EU membership.

Do they have a role to play in the ongoing Eurosceptic atmosphere in Britain? Thus, it is important to study and compare conceptions of European integration in different member countries of the EU, as different perceptions of European integration may lead to different European politics in the present. This study is not without its limitations. First, it is important to acknowledge that the results have been affected by the different educational systems in France and Britain and by the different positions of history and civics in the national curricula.

In practice, this means that while the French material consisted of history textbooks, the English material included both history and civics textbooks.


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Consequently, the direct comparison between the analyses of the two countries is difficult. Another crucial limitation of this study concerns the small number of textbooks from the earlier decades. In particular, the restricted amount of textbooks has consequences for the analysis of the transformation of the social representation of European integration, and therefore, the results are not generalizable but remain tentative. In fact, Klein and Licata , who successfully combined these two methodologies, argue that they can benefit from each other.

On the one hand, ALCESTE increases the objectivity of the discourse analysis, as the choice of extracts is not made by the researcher but by the software.

On the other hand, discursive tools are needed in order to analyse the argumentative functions of the selected extracts. The discursive analysis of ECUs showed that textbooks and their authors use a variety of rhetorical devices to persuade their readers. Warranting, which works to convince readers that descriptions are factual, seems to be the most dominant rhetorical format used in the textbooks. This warranting took place through the use of devices such as passive voice, quotations and consensus building.

Typically, warranting was also emphasised through consensus-building devices e. These observations are, nevertheless, tentative and an avenue to further explore in future studies. The final point to discuss is of a more theoretical nature: although language, communication and social construction are focal points in both SRT and discursive psychology, the integration of these two European approaches has not been uncomplicated.

In his recent theoretical chapter, Gibson argues for the combination of SRT and discursive-rhetorical psychology because they can strengthen each other. Thus, Gibson , p. This has been one of the endeavours of the present study. This study contributes to our understanding of how European integration is based and how it depends on different national experiences and national projects. In the current context of the economic and refugee crisis hitting Europe and, consequently, the European idea of integration, the significance of this approach and the results it provides become paramount.

This could mean that if there is no shared collective memory of the European project, there is no European identity, and no legitimate European identity politics. To analyse the British system and to compare it with French system, we have chosen to focus on English national curricula and textbooks. Obviously, there is a difference whether one uses a term England a nation , Britain an island that constitutes of England, Wales and Scotland or the UK an independent country that consists of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The political actorship and identity are not constructed in terms of English but rather in terms of British in the context of the European integration. These materials were also considered as having role to play in the formation of social knowledge and since it remains unclear which kind of material is most influential for the generation of social representations, all materials, regardless of the type e. The National Curriculum is divided into four Key Stages that children are taken through during their school life.

Targets defined in the National Curriculum are assessed at the end of each Key Stage. Secondly, when the writer of the text is distanced from the argument, the direct quote may allow the arousal of emotions more easily that the basic text. Thirdly, direct quoting from other sources may be regarded as more reliable when it is presented by someone, who is considered entitled to make the argument, by someone who has experienced those times, as the French former President de Gaulle in this case see Potter, The author would like to thank the editor and the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful suggestions.

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“Fatta l’Europa, bisogna fare gli Europei”: Should the EU aim at forging a European identity?

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As one of the first studies of EU memories, this approach opens a unique window of analysis to view the development of the European community, and makes a fascinating contribution to our understanding of the political tradition born of 60 years of European integration. A Political Theory of Identity in European Integration: Memory and Policies will be of strong interest to students and scholars of European politics, contemporary democratic theory and EU studies. Enter your Postcode or Suburb to view availability and delivery times.