In the book “Europe Entrapped”, Claus Offe brings into sharp focus the central political problem that lies at the heart of the EU and shackles its ability to deal with the most serious crisis of its short history.
Today Europe finds itself in a crisis that casts a dark shadow over an entire generation. The seriousness of the crisis stems from one core political contradiction at the heart of the European project: namely, that what urgently needs to be done is also extremely unpopular and therefore virtually impossible to do democratically. What must be done - and almost everyone agrees in principle on the measures that would be needed to deal with the financial crisis - cannot be sold to the voting public of the core member states, which so far have been less affected by the crisis than those on the periphery, nor can the conditions that core members try to impose be easily sold to voters in the deficit countries.
The European Union is therefore becoming increasingly disunited, with deepening divides between the German-dominated ‘core’ and the southern ‘periphery’, between the winners and the losers of the common currency, between the advocates of greater integration and the anti-Europeans, between the technocrats and the populists. Europe finds itself trapped by the deepening divisions that are opening up across the Continent, obstructing its ability to deal with a crisis that has already caused massive social suffering in the countries of the European periphery and is threatening to derail the very project of the European Union.
CLAUS OFFE is Professor of Political Sociology at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He is author of numerous books, including Contradictions of the Welfare State, Disorganized Capitalism, Modernity and the State, and Reflections on America: Tocqueville, Weber and Adorno in the United States.
TERESA PULLANO is currently Assistant Professor in the Law Faculty and in the Institute of European Global Studies of the University of Basel. She is the author of 'La citoyenneté européenne: un espace quasi-étatique' (Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2014).
SYLVIA WALBY, ESA President 1995-97, is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, Director, Violence and Society UNESCO Centre, Lancaster University, UK. Her work contributes to theorising society. It mainstreams gender and other intersecting inequalities and uses complexity science to rethink core concepts of social systems, offering a comparative analysis of neoliberalism and social democracy in Europe and America (Globalization and Inequalities, Sage 2009). Analysis of the cascading crisis (Crisis, Polity 2015) addresses the changing role of the democratic state in regulating finance and the economy and offers a route towards an alternative future.
ALISON E. WOODWARD (Ph.D. UC Berkeley) is Research Professor Emerita at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) and Senior Associate of the Institute for European Studies at the VUB working on European Union policy on equality, gender, diversity and decision-making. Recently she published (2016) ‘EU Civil Society and the crisis: Changing channels and organizational patterns in European transnational civil society’ in 'Shifting Paradigms after the Crisis', Palgrave. She has been ESA Vice-President and is presently a Board member of the ESA RN32 Political Sociology.
FRANK WELZ (Innsbruck) is President of the European Sociological Association, currently co-edits ‘The Battlefield of European Identity’ with G. Tasheva (Routledge 2018) and is glad about the session for continuing the open debate on the conference theme.