Social Spaces beyond Civil Society: European Integration, Globalization and the Sociology of European Society
There has been a renewed interest in the idea of society of late. Sociological studies of globalization have posed the question of how to understand society without the nation-state, and studies of European Union (EU) integration have linked the non-emergence of a European society to the 'democratic deficit'. In both cases what is at issue is how to understand the social dynamics of transnational spaces. This paper advances three main arguments in relation to the idea of European society. First, despite its popularity, the concept of civil society is of limited use for understanding European society. Second, European society should not be seen as a unified and coherent whole but as a series of non-integrated, fragmented and autonomous public spheres. Third, European society cannot be understood in the singular. A plurality of European public and social spaces exist, often beyond the control of, or unrelated to, the EU or its member states. In short, European social spaces are not harmonious and cohesive, nor are they necessarily constituted by European integration.