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Hdr Année : 2019

European Objects. The troubled dreams of harmonization

Institut d'études politiques de Paris

Brice Laurent


The European Union is often seen as a faceless bureaucracy lacking meaningful collective goals, and remote from day-to-day concerns. This narrative has become familiar in many democratic contexts. In Europe, it can be connected to current events such as Brexit and the rise of populist parties. This manuscript argues that many of the European democratic issues can be understood and addressed by analyzing regulatory interventions based on technical objects. I analyze the political consequences of these interventions, and discuss their democratization. I use the term “European objects” to describe technical entities that are regulated (and thereby transformed) by European policies. These entities range from food products, to chemicals, financial products, consumer goods, drinking water, or occupational environments. They might be market objects expected to circulate across Europe, or technical objects in need of scientific examination because of the risks they entail or are subject to. European objects are regulated for the sake of long-term perspectives for European harmonization that are only imperfectly realized, and have become democratically problematic. The manuscript examines two of these dreams of harmonization. The first one is that of a market, unified across the Union and neatly purified from political considerations. The second one is that of a unique source of scientific expertise expected to adjudicate controversies. The manuscript shows that European objects regularly challenge the recourse to market and science. I argue that taking objects seriously offers a path for re-phrasing the dreams of harmonization. European objects can be made objects that matter to the Union’s citizens, and therefore reconnect the European project with its publics.
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tel-02403111 , version 1 (18-12-2019)


  • HAL Id : tel-02403111 , version 1


Brice Laurent. European Objects. The troubled dreams of harmonization. Sociology. Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, 2019. ⟨tel-02403111⟩
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