Europe in search of Europeans: The road of identity and myth
This Study by Gérard Bouchard, historian and sociologist, prefaced by our President emeritus Pascal Lamy, is a plea in favour of the European Union (EU), while criticizing some choices it has made in the past, choices that now hinder its development.
According to the author, EU’s pioneers and their successors made the unfortunate choice to generally distrust the nations as well as the peoples, and to sidestep them by opting for a top-down process of governance. In order to break this vicious circle, the EU will have to find a way to mend fences with the nations in order to put an end to a long-standing detrimental tension, harness rather than stifle the nations’ still substantial symbolic resources and energy, and secure a platform to build new European myths.
This Study seeks to demonstrate that the EU needs to redefine its relationships with the nations (as configurations of culture, not to be confused with the states). It is assumed that any form of social link, however thin, must rely on some shared basic symbolic assets.
A first part recalls the founding cultural choices that have allowed the EU to take off and to enjoy a rapid development after WWII.
The second part proceeds to show how the same choices can be linked to the major predicaments that are besetting the EU today. After having efficiently propelled the EU, most of the founding choices have become somewhat counter-productive mainly because they have not been revised and adapted to the changing conjunctures.
The Study then goes on to review the unsuccessful subsequent attempts made by the EU over the past decades to develop new myths and a European identity. Finally, examples of a new way to build the future myths are offered, essentially through what the author calls a “europeanisation of national myths”. The goal is to carve myths that would resonate both at the European and national levels, in other words: to fashion a true European voice with strong national echoes.