Call for papers : Conference: Political philosophy “classics” and the European integration

The conference will take place on 20 and 21 January 2022, hopefully on the campus of UCLouvain, Belgium. Selected papers will be offered to be published in a special issue of the bilingual review Politique européenne. If you are interested, please send a 300 words abstracts by 15th of September to

“European sovereignty”, “hamiltonian moment” of European federalism, “post-democratic, bureaucratic rule”; what does European integration produce in light of “classical” concepts of political theory?


The main objective of this conference is to bring together philosophers, political scientists and theorists of the European union (EU) in order to evaluate the use of the “classics” to grasp the EU as a political phenomenon – while questioning this notion of “classics”. If the scholars in European studies have long treated the European integration as sui generis (of its own kind), it has never been built ex nihilo, without relation with the political, historical and philosophical realities of Europe. On the contrary, the political issues discussed in the EU are part of a continuum between the national and the European political system. The EU has been constituted in this basis and it exports, at a more extensive level of power, the democratic and sovereignist debates that have traditionally been encountered at the national level. European integration distances us from our political evidence –sovereignty, democracy, federalism/statism, etc.– while giving them new meaning. In that case, the benefit to understand the EU through the prism of modern philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Publius, etc.) is to grasp the evolution of the political concepts and to address them in the novel European context. In other words, referring to the “classics” helps us to sharpen our questions and broaden our conceptual solutions.


The methodological question that will run through the conference will be to determine the place of theorists within European studies. Philosophers very early engaged with the theme of contemporary Europe (Husserl 1929, Patočka 1938), entered the field of European studies very late. The turning point occurs with the Maastricht Treaty: thanks to the democratic claims and the European citizenship, the EU became a political entity and reconnected with the classic themes of constitution, representation, legitimacy or participation (Bellamy & Castiglione 2003, Bellamy & Lacey, 2017). The normative view of the European studies means to shift the objective of the theory of EU from an explanatory role of the integration to a critical role of its results (Diez & Wiener, 2019). Therefore, between “intemperance” of overly critical theorists (Leca 2015) and “non-ideal theory”, the general question is the link between philosophers and European scholars (Friese & Wagner 2002): by what method of updating the modern authors do the contemporary philosophers make themselves audible to political scientists and how, conversely, do the latter make consistent use of the theoretical references of political philosophy? Do classical figures appear as sources of inspiration, evaluation grids or outdated models to be overcome? More specifically, how do EU theorists innovate or renew theoretical approaches on sovereignty, federalism and democracy?



To what extend is the EU transforming the concept of sovereignty and which classical idea of the concept remains valid? In other words, is it meaningful to use the term “European sovereignty” (e.g. Macron)? It can be considered that the EU does not simply question sovereignty, but rather allows shaping a “co-sovereignty” (Ferry 2005) that manages, like a “bundle of competences” (Spector 2020), the central powers of the states according to a specific and differentiated dynamic, well beyond a simple regulatory polity (Genschel & Jachtenfuchs 2014, Schimmelfennig & Winzen 2020). It is a deny of the “marks” of sovereignty (absolute, indivisibility, etc. in Hobbes and Rousseau), in favor of the source and its exercise (Publius). In this regard, sovereignty is rather understood as “claims of power” (Walker 2003) potentially conflicting with other claims (Brack et al. 2019).  Therefore, does it mean that sovereignty is a simple discursive feature to make politics or does sovereignty keep the footprint of a power deciding in the last resort? One need to examine contemporary forms of sovereignty while keeping in mind the modern definition of the concept: which domain and which actor of the European political system are most likely to mobilize the principle of sovereignty? What normative model underlies the discourse of institutional and political actors? Topics such as digital sovereignty, sovereignty at the borders or military means of the EU are also good entry points to discuss theoretically sovereignty.

The panel on sovereignty will particularly welcome historical comparisons, discourse analyses from the perspective of theoretical references and normative studies on sovereignty.



Regarding the EU institutional developments, one should examine them in the light of the recent crises: are we witnessing a confederal (dis)integration of the EU? Or have the crises, as is often believed in the history of EU integration, had a deepening role and brough the EU a little closer to a “federal republic” (Montesquieu)? To put it simply, do we live an “Hamiltonian moment”? Neither a state nor a simple confederation, European integration within this institutional in-between, as were the American constituents (Amiel 2013), innovates in different ways. It is based on a “Pouvoir constituent Mixte” (Habermas 2012, Patberg et al. 2017), it distinguishes between different “processes of government” (Nicolaïdis 2006), between different types of intergovernmentalism (Fabbrini 2017). And without aiming at a federal state, the extension of the federation depends on the condition of democratic acceptability (Fossum 2017, Balibar 2016). In that context, how does the institutional dynamic of the EU stretch, or challenge, the theory of federalism (Fossum & Jachtenfuchs 2017)? Is federalism a valid, a misleading or a too narrow framework to understand and evaluate the EU? Does one have to complement this theory with other principles, such as subsidiarity, decentralization or differentiation, in order to grasp more in-depth the European institutions?

In this panel, work on federalism –its history, its examples and its understanding as an intergovernmental theory or normatively state-oriented – is expected, both in its application to the EU and in theoretical debates on community, democracy and interdependence. As well, comparative approaches will particularly be valuable. The principle of differentiation, as a theory of competence management, may also be an original entry into the institutional reality of the EU.



Finally, the European development leads naturally to the question of democracy. Is the EU a “postdemocratic” polity (Crouch 2000, Habermas 2012)? it is clear that the EU renews the democratic question in the light of the crisis that occurred in 2010s from the point of view of citizenship (Lacroix 2012), legitimacy (Schmidt 2020) and representation (Fossum 2015). Democracy in European studies has been raised as the definition of community that binds together different demoï (Cheneval & Nicolaïdis 2016, Bellamy 2013), but also as the type of politicization that is at work (De Wielde et al. 2016) and the figure of the people and of the public sphere that are at stake (Deleixhe 2020, Risse 2014). In this context, one may ask which principle and which border of democracy should be referred to in order to grasp EU as a polity. Firstly, democracy is a principle of legitimacy and justification. Therefore, how can one articulate the procedural justification (input-output) with the direct legitimacy that connect the citizens with the European institutions, and with the indirect legitimacy that based the EU upon its member states’ authority (Lord 2021). Also, democracy could be seen as a society (Tocqueville), and not only as a political entity. In that sense, is the EU better described through common projects (White 2010) that may have the effect to transform individuals to citizens and to European citizens?

This panel will welcome both practical and theoretical researches on democratic legitimacy of the post-crisis EU and on citizen (dis)affiliation with European project. Studies on democratic principles (representative, participatory, radical, etc.) and classical philosophers that may be mobilized in European discourses are also expected.