Writing the Rules for Europe or why is the European Union so technocratic?
|Dates:||17 November 2014|
|Times:||13:00 - 14:00|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||Manchester Institute of Innovation Research|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public|
Writing rules for Europe in the early twenty-first century appears to be the job of politicians and policy makers in the European Union (EU). Alongside the management of the Eurozone or the coordination of foreign policies, for example, their manifold governing tasks include decisions on production and transport technologies, communication and energy infrastructures and the technical appliances we use, the food we eat, and the clothes we wear. The resulting technologies, systems, and standards provide a material, institutional, and cultural foundation for Europe. They ensure that Europe will not suddenly fall apart, even if the Euro as a currency were to collapse, for example.
The Europe discussed in this paper (and the book on which it is based) should not be conflated with the EU, however, no matter how important the latter may be. In fact, it explicitly aims to decenter the EU, and argues the EU (and its predessors) were a latecomer in the process of European integration. The Europe of this paper has been constituted during the last 150 years or so through the creation of a set of rules by a variety of organizations, committees, and technical experts operating inside them.
Volume 3 in the book Making Europe book series, Writing the Rules for Europe (co-authored by Wolfram Kaiser and Johan Schot) discusses the work of these organizations, and demonstrates that Europe’s integration was largely conceived by experts (chiefly engineers) who preferred to work behind closed doors, hidden from the public eye. These experts in the first instance responded to what they considered the need for practical coordination resulting from the rapidly growing transnational flows of people, goods and information in the nineteenth century. They believed that established diplomatic channels were too cumbersome and that diplomats lacked technical expertise. Experts sought to fill the emerging regulatory gap with their own know-how and agendas.
During the twentieth century they made increasingly self-confident claims about making rules for Europe. They often saw their technocratic approach as a superior form of conducting international relations. The paper (and book) will demonstrate how these experts developed a specific technocratic framing and practice of managing transnational relations – something that I will call technocratic internationalism. Subsequently the paper will discuss how this framing influenced the postwar European integration process as fuelled by the European Union.
I will focus on transport, especially railways. This sector faced huge cross-border governance challenges from its start deep in the nineteenth century, and demonstrates how European integration worked on the ground throughout the twentieth century. It will show that we can only understand the successes and failures of the European integration process by looking at long term continuities.
Organisation: SPRU University of Sussex
Role: Professor of History of Technology and Sustainability Transition
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