Prof Wolfgang Streeck: “Stories of Europe: European Integration and Political Use of Cultural-Historical Narratives” (2017 Frisby Memorial Lecture)

Glasgow Sociology welcomed Prof. Wolfgang Streeck, Emeritus Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (Cologne), to give the annual Frisby Memorial Lecture on 19 September 2017. You can read a Guardian profile of Prof. Streeck here and you can find the abstract and a video recording of Prof. Streeck‘s lecture entitled ‘Stories of Europe: European Integration and Political Use of Cultural-Historical Narratives’ below.


The European Union is not Europe. Europe is a two thousand year old civilizational landscape housing a multitude of different but related societies. The European Union is a political construct dating from the 1950s that has in its short lifetime undergone continuous deep transformation. Like earlier political constructs in Europe, it seeks legitimacy by encouraging stories about itself that connect it to Europe as a continent and its supposed historical purpose, cultural identity, and moral unity. European cultural and historical narratives deployed to legitimate the European Union as a political project are the latest in a long line of earlier stories of Europe, each linked to the political and economic objectives and power relations of the day. Like other ideologies, they are dropped and replaced depending on what political opportunities allow or require; they tell us more about Europe’s politics than about Europe. Identification with Europe as a civilization does not require identification with the European Union as a political construction. Depending on the changing condition of the latter it may in fact be incompatible with it.