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Constitutional Patriotism and the Public Sphere: Interests, Identity, and Solidarity in the Integration of Europe

Also in Pablo De Greiff and Ciaran Cronin (eds): Global Ethics and Transnational Politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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  1. It is worth remarking the extent to which this vision of internal and external is informed by the ancient Greek opposition of the domestic realm of the household to the public realm of relations among autonomous individuals. Economic production was imagined as part of the domestic oikos and the public life outside was understood to stand on this foundation. How different (male, property-owning) individuals managed their households was not a proper topic for attention in the public realm.

  2. See discussion in Saskia Sassen, Losing control? (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

  3. I make no pretense to presenting a detailed empirical study of the European public sphere, and still less European civil society in general or the politics of integration. Rather, I hope that by keeping a concrete case in mind we can better understand abstract issues. It is, moreover, the concrete case behind much of the abstract theoretical discussion of postnational identity and citizenship.

  4. Habermas’s abstract theoretical formulations are not altogether separate from his contributions to German public debate—in this case notably in relation to the incorporation of the East into a united but Western-dominated Germany, to the “historians’ debate” over the legacy of the Third Reich, and to the contention over change in the citizenship law, enacted in watered down form to allow the children of immigrants rights to “naturalization”.

  5. For thoughtful examples, see essays in Daniele Archibugi and David Held, (eds.), Cosmopolitan democracy (Cambridge: Polity, 1995) and Daniele Archibugi, David Held, and Martin Köhler, (eds.), Re-imagining political community (Cambridge: Polity, 1998) and the more sustained exposition in David Held, Democracy and the global order: From the modern state to cosmopolitan governance (Cambridge: Polity, 1995). Habermas offers a similar call in The inclusion of the other (ed. C. Cronin and P. De Greiff; Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1998). See the essays connecting the present to Kant’s cosmopolitan project in James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann, (eds.), Perpetual peace: Essays on Kant’s cosmopolitan ideal (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1997).

  6. I have discussed nationalism as a discursive formation in Nationalism (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997).

  7. See, for example, “Struggles for recognition in the democratic constitutional state,” Habermas’s surprisingly fierce response to Charles Taylor’s “The politics of recognition” (both in Amy Gutman, (ed.), Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition (rev. ed.). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994). On the cosmopolitan side, see Janna Thompson’s distorting examination of “communitarian” arguments, “Community identity and world citizenship,” in Daniele Archibugi, David Held, and Martin Köhler (eds.), Re-imagining political community: studies in cosmopolitan democracy (pp. 179–197, Cambridge: Polity, 1998).

  8. The Inclusion of the other, p. 117.

  9. The Inclusion of the other, p. 115.

  10. Michael Warner’s Republic of letters (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988) is especially informative on the ways in which debate in print informed the constitutive American public. Larry Siedentrop has noted the surprising asymmetry between the intensive and intellectually vital public discussion that informed America’s founding and the relative absence of such debate in contemporary Europe; Democracy in Europe (London: Penguin, 2000). It is in this sense, I am suggesting here, that Europe is being given shape and solidarity from economic integration, political institutions and even some growing cultural commonalties far more than any founding public sphere.

  11. Arendt, On revolution (New York: Penguin, 1977; orig. 1963); see also The Human condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).

  12. The idea of a social imaginary derives from Cornelius Castoriadis, though my own usage is different. For Castordiadis, it addresses the dimensions of society not graspable as a functional system nor as a network of symbols, but crucial to the idea that there can be a social choice about the functional and symbolic order or social life. The imaginary includes “significations that are not there in order to represent something else, that are like the final articulations the society in question has imposed on the world, on itself, and on its needs, the organizing patterns that are the conditions for the representability of everything that the society can give to itself” The imaginary institution of society (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1987, orig. 1975), p. 143. Compare Taylor: “The social imaginary is not a set of ‘ideas’; rather it is what enables, through making sense of, the practices of a society.” “Modern social imaginaries,” draft ms., p. 1.

  13. “Modern social imaginaries,” draft p. 1.

  14. Charles Taylor, Sources of the self (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).

  15. I have explored these issues in Nationalism (Minnesota, 1997).

  16. The Inclusion of the other, p. 115.

  17. Emphasis on the public sphere also suggests a greater freedom in the important sense that it treats culture-forming activity as an open-ended process. As Arendt suggested, it is never entirely possible to know where activity in public will lead, what will be created. Just as culture is produced and reproduced, not simply inherited, so creativity not simply tolerance mediates cross-cultural relations.

  18. Jürgen Habermas, The structural transformation of the public sphere (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1989; orig. 1962). It is worth noting that the classical vision of the public sphere which Habermas articulates does stress that citizens forge a public sphere through their interactions with each other; it is not simply called into being top-down by subjection to a common power. Indeed, in line with a long tradition of political theory including Locke, subjects of a state become citizens by virtue of their capacity for lateral communication.

  19. Emile Durkheim, The division of labor in society (New York: Free, 1975; orig. 1893).

  20. Durkheim has puzzled a century of commentators by insisting that in principle organic solidarity knit people together more tightly and all the failures of modern social integration we merely exceptions to the rule. What is clear is that organic solidarity can knit together larger populations.

  21. Note that power is not in itself the basis for a conception of social solidarity; subjection as such is not solidarity, though it may create a polity. This is why the ideal cases of pure despotism place a premium on the absence of active unity among the subjects.

  22. By the same token, interests are therefore not fixed or objectively ascertainable. They vary with the salience of different identities to individuals. Not all individual identities reflect categories of similarity to others, of course, and while there may be an element of choice much identification happens outside conscious recognition or choice.

  23. On the effort to distinguish networks of relations from shared sentiments, see Calhoun, (1980) “Community: Toward a variable conceptualization for comparative research,” Social History, 5(1), 105–129. On the problematic extension of the concept of community from networks of concrete, interpersonal relationships to broad cultural or political categories, see Calhoun, (1999) “Nationalism, political community, and the representation of society: Or, why feeling at home is not a substitute for public space,” European Journal of Social Theory, 2(2), 217–31. Such networks are sharply limited in capacity to constitute the social order of a complex, large-scale society. The overall order of such a society is necessarily shaped much more by the mediation of markets, formal organizations, and impersonal communications. See Calhoun, “Imagined communities and indirect relationships: Large scale social integration and the transformation of everyday life,” in P. Bourdieu and J.S. Coleman (eds.), Social theory for a changing society (pp. 95–120, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1991), and “The Infrastructure of modernity: Indirect relationships, information technology, and social integration, ” in H. Haferkamp and N.J. Smelser, (eds.), Social change and modernity (pp. 205–236). Berkeley: University of California Press. The conception of categories and networks is indebted to Siegfried Nadel, Theory of social structure (London: Cohen and West, 1957). It has also been employed creatively by Harrison White in dispersed work partially summarized in Identity and control (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). White sees networks as basic, categories as more typically epiphenomenal, and believes a structural network theory can dispense with need for separate reference to functional integration. He does not consider publics.

  24. In an unpublished manuscript (forthcoming in revised form in his Publics and counterpublics (Cambridge, MA: Zone), Michael Warner helpfully lists five dimensions to the meaning of ‘public’:

    1. 1.

      A public is self-organizing

    2. 2.

      A public is a relation among strangers

    3. 3.

      The address of public speech is both personal and impersonal

    4. 4.

      A public is the social space created by the circulation of discourse

    5. 5.

      Publics exist historically according to the temporality of their circulation

  25. Arendt, The human condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).

  26. The human condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 50, 52.

  27. The plurality Arendt emphasized extended not only to subjects, but to public spaces which in modern large-scale societies she thought would inevitably need to be many and imperfectly integrated. See Crises of the republic (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1972), p. 232; also Calhoun, “Plurality, promises, and public spaces,” in C. Calhoun and J. McGowan, (eds.), Hannah Arendt and the meaning of politics (pp. 232–259, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997).

  28. Habermas reaffirms this emphasis in more recent work: “the ‘literary’ public sphere in the broader sense, which is specialized for the articulation of values and world disclosure, is intertwined with the political public sphere,” Between facts and norms, p. 365. However, his recent work is less state-centered.

  29. This sheds some light on disputes over whether Habermas’s theory implies a unitary public sphere or multiple publics (Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy,” in C. Calhoun (ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 109–142, Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1992); Michael Warner, “Public and private” in Gil Herdet and Catherine Stimpson (eds.), Critical terms for the study of gender and sexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming). Clearly in several senses, publics may be multiple, but where public discourse addresses and/or is occasioned by a state, there is a pressure for reaching integration at the level of that state. The plural publics need relation to each other in a public sphere if they are to be able to facilitate democracy within that state by informing its actions.

  30. Habermas, The inclusion of the other (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1998), p. 153.

  31. In Structural transformation, Habermas’s attention was focused not just on the ideals of public life, but on the question of why apparently democratic expansions in the scale of public participation had brought a decline in the rational–critical character of public discourse, a vulnerability to demagogic and mass-media manipulation, and sometimes a loss of democracy itself. The distorted publicity of American-style advertising, public relations, and political campaigns was a manifest focus, but an underlying concern was also the way in which public life lost its links to both democracy and rational–critical understanding in the Third Reich.

  32. Inclusion of the Other, p. 141.

  33. Ibid.

  34. “Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy,” in Craig Calhoun, (ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 109–142, Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1992).

  35. Warner, Publics and counterpublics. Warner rightly questions Fraser’s identification of counterpublics with “subalterns”, noting that many groups not clearly in subaltern positions identify themselves by contraposition to the dominant culture or institutions of a society, and may constitute counterpublics opposed to the dominant patterns of the public sphere. His chief example is the Christian right in the United States. The new populist right wing in Europe seems largely similar in this respect. Electoral victors take pride in describing themselves as outsiders to dominant institutions, even while claiming to be the ultimate insiders to and defenders of national traditions.

  36. I distinguish the idea of a ‘gay public’ from a ‘queer counterpublic’ to make two points. One, following Warner (in The trouble with normal, Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), there is a tension among gay man and lesbians over both practical politics and discursive practices focused specifically on the question of whether to demand reduction of the demarcation of gay from straight or to assert queer identities in a potentially disruptive (and/or liberating) fashion. Second, distinction of a gay public from a queer counterpublic is a reminder that not all demarcation of publics is necessarily the production of counterpublics.

  37. Habermas famously focused only on the ‘bourgeois’ public sphere, contrasting it to an earlier aristocrat-dominated public. This sparking complaints that he neglected the proletarian public sphere. See crucially Oscar Negt and Alexander Kluge, The public sphere and experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993; orig. 1964); see also Geoff Eley (1992), “Nations, publics and political cultures: Placing Habermas in the nineteenth century, ” in Calhoun (ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 289–339). Cambridge, MA: MIT. But Habermas and Negt and Kluge both accept the separation between bourgeois and proletarian as already established based on objective economic conditions rather than as something forged in large part in the contestation within and over the public sphere. Habermas thus posits inclusion as an issue about the later broadening of the public sphere rather than a formative theme from the start. Tactics like raising taxes on newspapers to discourage the popular press (or disparaging workers as insufficiently rational) were, in a sense, counterpublic mobilization from above.

  38. See, among many in this large literature, Nancy Fraser, Unruly practices (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1992) and Justice interruptus (New York: Routledge, 1997); Jean Bethke Elshtain, Public man, private woman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Michael Warner, “Public and private,” in Catherine Stimpson, (ed.), Blackwell companion to gender studies (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, forthcoming). See also the early response to Habermas and very different development of the idea of public sphere in Oscar Negt and Alexander Kluge, The public sphere and experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993; orig., 1964).

  39. In a similar sense, many approaches to multiculturalism treat ethnicity and community as terrains of ‘privacy’—protected precisely because not public. The discourse of rights encourages both communitarian advocates and liberal critics to ask what kind of private right—of individuals or groups—might protect differences rather than what kind of public good it is, or what kind of public claim supports it.

  40. Structural transformation of the public sphere (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1989; orig. 1962), p. 36.

  41. Ibid., p. 131.

  42. See Michael Warner: Letters of the republic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

  43. Between facts and norms, chapter 8.

  44. This dimension is one of the important reasons not to see the public sphere as simply a setting for rational–critical debate among citizens already formed in private life. It is largely through participation in public life that people can become good citizens; this educative dimension of democratic public life is one of its modes of self-organization.

  45. The issue is not just one of the power of the center, but of the mutual implication of the political processes in different parts of the EU. This came out sharply with the rise of Kurt Haider in Austria. Other members of the EU leadership felt they had no choice but to respond precisely because the matter was internal—Austrian claims to sovereignty notwithstanding. One meaning of “internal” was that the electoral fortunes of political parties throughout the continent were interdependent; another was that each leader could potentially be held responsible for his response to events perceived as a danger to the collective body politic.

  46. Crucial to the shift is a growing description of individuals as Europeans, and increasingly as directly European not simply European by virtue of their membership in a European nation. This is advanced by development of a common framework of citizenship (pressed forward partly by attempts to provide similar structures of benefits as part of economic integration, partly by attempts to deal similarly with immigrants, partly by legal integration). Even though European ‘citizens’ elect representatives to the European Parliament only through the mediation of national parties and delegations, there is a growing reference to such direct citizenship (e.g., in reference to border controls). Technically, the EU is composed of nation-states and exists as an agreement among them. In everyday practice, however, it is growing more common for individuals to understand themselves directly as members (and to make claims on the Union which are not mediated by nation-states but by regional or other groupings if they are mediated at all). This doesn’t mean that individuals or localities wield effective countervailing power. In many regards, the EU has furthered a process shaped also by other currents that gives more power to central governments and their individual leaders. Thus the heads of state could decide to pursue war in Kosovo without substantial recourse to national parliaments or other ostensibly countervailing powers.

  47. Ernst Renan, “What is a nation?” in Homi Bhabha (ed.), Nation and narration (London: Routledge, 1990; orig. 1871).

  48. Habermas’s Legitimacy crisis (Boston: Beacon, 1975) explored this in terms of both the limits of economistic legitimation faced with ‘postmaterial’ values and the problems of a culture of bureaucratic expertise managing public policy as technical problem-solving without democratic participation.

  49. Democracy in Europe, p. 32. Siedentrop explores the prospects for self-government with a stronger opposition of democratic and republican visions (that is, of egalitarian but privacy-oriented civil society and often inegalitarian but public-oriented civic virtue) than seems necessary. His book deserves fuller attention but appeared only as the present article was going to press.

  50. Lest this seem far-fetched, recall that the process is not entirely ancient in the French case, but extends well into the nineteenth century (with echoes afterward). Eugen Weber’s often-quoted point is telling: there was no point before the middle of the nineteenth century when the majority of Frenchmen spoke French. Peasants into Frenchmen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976).

  51. As Paul Gilroy suggests, the answer must be “all of the above,” but it is an answer obscured by the organization of even racialized resistance on nationalist lines; see The black Atlantic: Modernity and double consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

  52. Inclusion of the other, p. 160.

  53. See also my own “Identity and plurality in the conceptualization of Europe” and other discussions of this question in Lars-Eric Cederman, (ed.), Constructing Europe’s identity: issues and trade-offs (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner, 2000).

  54. Robbins notes that the first cited usage under “cosmopolitan” in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from John Stuart Mill’s Political economy in 1848: “Capital is becoming more and more cosmopolitan.” Intellectuals, professionalism, culture, p. 182.

  55. The idea of “social imaginary” is thus not simply about the imagining of counterfactual possibilities—e.g., utopias—however instructive. It is about the ways of imagining social life that actually make it possible. In this sense, it is a way of approaching culture that emphasizes agency and history in the constitution of the language and understandings by which we give shape to social life. To speak of the social imaginary is to assert that there are not fixed categories of external observation adequate to all history; ways of thinking and structures of feeling make possible certain social forms, and that the thinking, feeling, and forms are thus products of action and historically variable. In this way, cultural creativity is basic even to such seemingly “material” forms as the corporation or the nation. These exist because they are imagined; they are real because treated as real; new particular cases are produced through recurrent exercise of the underlying social imaginary.

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Correspondence to Craig Calhoun.

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The author is a Professor of the Social Sciences at New York University. Earlier versions of parts of this text were presented to the EUI conference on “The Future of the European Public Sphere,” Florence, June 17–19, 1999; to the Department of Sociology, University of Michigan, January, 2000; as a Benjamin Meaker Lecture at the University of Bristol in June 2000; and the Center for Transcultural Studies, July 2000. I am grateful for discussion from each audience, also to the editors of this book, and especially to colleagues in the Center for sustained challenge to and shaping of my ideas over many years.

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Calhoun, C. Constitutional Patriotism and the Public Sphere: Interests, Identity, and Solidarity in the Integration of Europe. Int J Polit Cult Soc 18, 257–280 (2005).

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  • Civil Society
  • Public Sphere
  • Public Life
  • Collective Identity
  • Social Solidarity