The contested reconstruction of the Belle Époque? Europe 2020, transnational capitalism and the political economy of global restructuring
Petros Nousios and Andreas Tsolakis European integration is a multifaceted process. Yet, as the contributions in the present volume have attempted to show, it is also a process with firm roots in historically specific production relations and world orders. Unlike mainstream approaches that tend to fetishise or to abstract from these relations by conceptualising globalisation and regional integration as two exogenous and externally-related processes, the present volume has argued for the need to re-examine this relationship under a more critical light. The chapters contained in the present volume provide a rich set of differing yet complementary and mutually enriching approaches to European integration aiming at the achievement of unity in and through the practice of critique of orthodoxy. The multiplicity of critical approaches contained herein serves to indicate the existence not only of a vibrant research field, but also of the need for further scholarly work in order to understand and explain the issues and processes currently at work in the region. Responsive to this urgency, all contributions in this book, by seasoned students of European integration, have attempted to develop the ontological and epistemological foundations of a critique of global and regional political economy and to engage in conceptual adaptation, refinement and the systematic unveiling of the inner structural workings of global production processes and of their multiple manifestations in time and space, and on different scales. Of course, ontological and epistemological development through critique, and conceptual funneling through empirical analysis is complex and hence, subject to the contradictions that were touched upon in the preceding analyses: whether it is the synthetic result of dialectical thinking and ontological starting-point of historical materialism (class struggle as the underlying mechanism of society’s historical development) or of Foucauldian thinking (its ontology of the present, unearthing the historical conditions determining the nature of all truths through the genealogy of knowledge), all contributions are critical to the extent that, within subjectively defined limits of the possible, they reject, and seek human emancipation from, the violence of existing relations of power and domination. By questioning attempts to separate power from social (i.e. economic, ideological and legal) and biological processes, they are, therefore, to be placed within a supremely political corpus of scholarship that aims to transcend the perverse political consequences of positivism, of determinism and indeed, of nihilism. Such a set of global, reflexive perspectives allows us in turn to explain
the European Union (EU) formation as elemental to, or ‘path-dependent’ on (to use Jessop’s conception of autopoiesis) broader structural processes and relationships (Jessop, 1990: chapter 11; Jessop, 2001). While traditional approaches can be accused of analytical myopia, the alternatives detailed in the volume suggest that the accusations of utopia and omphaloscopy traditionally levelled against critical political economy and the actual social praxis emanating from it may be in need of urgent revision.