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Towards a European spring

April 1, 2013

Ulrich Beck in openDemocracy:


The crisis of Europe has been analyzed from the perspective of political institutions, the economy, elites, governments, and the law, but not from the perspective of the individual. What does Europe mean for individuals and what principles can be developed on this basis for a social contract for a new Europe from below?

Europe is not a national society and it also cannot become a national society, because it is composed of democratically constituted national societies. And in this national sense, Europe is not a society either.

European ‘society’ must rather be conceived as a ‘cosmopolitan society of national societies’. The task is then to find a form of European union that, by virtue of its communal strength, legally protects every individual in every national society and at the same time enriches and enhances the freedom of every individual, by bringing him or her together with individuals with other languages and political cultures.

Everywhere in Europe young people are becoming aware that, although the culture of their native country is certainly important and constitutive of their identity, it is not sufficient for understanding the world. Young people want to become acquainted with other cultures because they sense that cultural, political, and economic questions are closely embroiled with globalization.

According to this analysis, young people experience European society as a “double sovereignty”, as the sum of national and European opportunities for development. Contrary to what is often expected, they do not describe their identity as an independent European identity. Nobody is only a European. Young Europeans define themselves in the first instance in terms of their nationality and then as Europeans. In this sense, young people experience a cosmopolitan Europe in which national differences and antagonisms mix and becoming blurred: more freedom through a cosmopolitan Europe.

Why is this individual experience of a lived Europe practically absent in the current controversy over the euro crisis and the European crisis? [More]

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