Active European Citizenship


Schröder, Nora Sophie (2014): Active European Citizenship between Action and Vision: “Doing Europe” as an alternative Approach to European Identity Construction, in: Open Citizenship: Youth in Europe - A lost Generation?, Vol. 5 No.2.


European identity, here understood as an open, continuous and
heterogeneous process of identification by individuals within a
plurality of life forms, is definitely not the final solution for all
the challenges we are facing in Europe these days. It is not as simple
as this. It is a complex construct which is embedded in complex social
relations, as well as personal experiences of the past and visions of
the future Europeans want to live in. In my paper, I focus on the
question of how young people’s political action for a future Europe lead
to several diverging European identities, based on their personal
visions of Europe. While political leaders are trying to sell that idea
of a “single Europe” in the context of European identity politics,
Rumford and Buhari – Gulmez point out that Europe has always been and
still is characterized by its “European multiplicity”. My research,
likewise, indicates that a single Europe for Europeans does not exist
and is not worth striving for. Europe can best be understood by
acknowledging that it is characterized by and can progress in the
interplay of individually developed visions of Europe. In order to
clarify how the concept of “vision” is understood in the paper I will
refer to Ernst Bloch’s philosophical concept of “concrete utopia” in his
book “The Principle of Hope” (Bloch, 1959). The active and participatory
impulse that visions of a future Europe give to young Europeans can be
regarded as a way to respond to the European crisis that they are facing
today. By referring to political participation for Europe, I seek to
develop an alternative concept of European identity. In contrast to an
essentialist perspective on European identity, I will connect the
construction of a European identity with Habermas’ idea of “Doing
Europe”, a kind of active European citizenship that underlines the
constructivist character (and so the variability) of Europe. With
Habermas, I see the personal experience of Europe as an influential
social reality. The collective activity of building a better European
future is just as fundamental for developing a personal European
identity. Whereas I see the European Union’s rhetoric of a collective
“European Identity” only as an expression of the political ideology of
the technocratic and elite-driven project of European integration. How
to think in a new way about “European identity” beyond the ontological
theories of society is the core task of the paper. Its approach to
European identity is located in the inspiring interdisciplinary field of
ideas from philosophical, political and sociological European studies.
The paper shows that European identity can best be understood by
acknowledging its draft character: that Europe is characterized by and
can progress along with the interplay of individually developed visions
of Europe on the basis of personal experience. Therefore, the absence of
a collective European Identity will not be regarded as a deficit but as
a productive possibility of Europe’s future development. The examination
of future visions of Europe, give new insights into how Europe is
perceived today. It needs to be further discussed how future visions can
help to understand European identity construction in the present
European context. Methodologically, I conducted qualitative research in
semi-structured guideline interviews of young and politically active
Europeans and underpinned my arguments with evidence from European
sociological research.