The European Union as Empire: Democratic Political Representation in Empire Europe


  • Lucas Dijker


Abstract. To conceptualise the European Union (‘EU’) as an empire is controversial. Yet, closer examination of the complex phenomenon of empire actually provides a constructive and a valuable understanding of the EU. This article aims to do away with state-centric approaches and examines the democratic political representation of the EU as an empire. Eric Voegelin’s theory of political representation is chosen to create an understanding of political representation in the EU. Voegelin’s focus goes beyond legal and ‘elemental’ approaches to representation and, therefore, allows for an interesting comparison with early empires, providing valuable angles to examine the political reality and symbols of the EU. This study concludes with a realistic perspective on a known problem, on which, by the use of the empire-analogy and a Voegelinian approach, it sheds a new light: democracy, functioning as the basis for unity in the EU, is fragile, and the distrust of Europeans to their representatives results in complications with unifying Europeans. It is an empire, historically seen, that might allow for a configuration for the EU that provides a good way to mitigate and balance differences since empires have an intrinsic relational and structural plurality that delivers, more than a state, unity in diversity.

Keywords: European Union, empire, political representation, European identity, Eric Voegelin



2021-09-10 — Actualitzat el 2021-09-11