Notes on the ‘politics’ of EU politicization

EU3D Research Papers, No. 5, January 2021 (SSRN)

Niilo Kauppi and Hans-Jörg Trenz


This article proposes an understanding of politicization as the field of contestation about the political. Applied to the contested field of EU governance, the argument is that EU politicization cannot be understood without analysis of its synergy with EU depoliticized governance. We will start with a discussion of some of the dimensions and modalities of (de)politicization and follow with analysis of EU (de)politicization in relation to the political field and public sphere. To understand the ‘politics of politicization’, we demarcate the field of political struggle and locate the wider public and societal resonances of such a struggle over the political. The research programme for the analysis of the ‘politics of EU-politicization’ then refers to the wider processes of how political conflicts are selectively amplified to create public visibility, how attention among relevant publics is unequally distributed, how opinions of these publics are formed and, ultimately as well, how legitimacy (or de-legitimation) is generated. After delineating possible research directions, we finish with some comments on EU (de)politicization as a rupture from national politics and the competitive and multi-level merging of political fields and public spheres through the transnational encounter of agents and publics. This chaotic process has unpredictable outcomes for EU-legitimacy, but nevertheless opens a European field where political contestation meets with societal resonance with possibilities of reflexivity and democratic learning for both institutional agents and publics involved. This working paper thus contributes with insights into the conditions for EU democratization, which is a core concern for EU3D (in particular in Work package 4, which focuses on public opinions, debates and reforms).


Published Mar. 17, 2021 9:45 AM - Last modified June 3, 2021 11:11 AM