Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Civil Society and the Globalisation of Locality between Latin America and Europe: Integration as a Case of Agonistic Cosmopolitics

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Civil Society and the Globalisation of Locality between Latin America and Europe: Integration as a Case of Agonistic Cosmopolitics

Article excerpt


Two aspects are addressed here of a critical perspective on issues of integration, in which the EU features as a model and a counterpart to South American processes: a) representations of cosmopolitan engagement in issues of development, rights and cultural identity; b) participation in attempts to promote alternative forms of global governance. Discourses of civil society activism and its global networks and participation in international forums thereby enact an agonistic cosmopolitics where Europe appears as both model and adversary. Derrida's logic of exemplarity is introduced to illustrate this point, in contrast to intellectual responses from Latin America emphasising globally connected localities - i.e. reconstructions of traditional ideas and signs of new discourses of community, religion and cultural identity as political resources. Such globalised localisms reconfigure historically crystallised forms of "influence" of Europe on Latin America, problematise notions of cosmopolitanism, and contest representations of both identities and their historical links.

Keywords: logic of exemplarity, EU-Latin American relations, global localities, civil society

1. Introduction

Slowly and unsurely, studies of processes of regional integration move to include non-state dimensions or trace the existing experiences through which social activism gets translated into the agenda of relevant debates and forms of participation beyond mere consultative mechanisms. In 2005, Jeffrey Haynes could still complain that "[u]ntil now, studies of regional cooperation have tended to ignore or pay only scant attention to the role of agency, with little attention devoted to various domestic and transnational agents, including interest groups, such as civil society actors and business corporations" (2005, p. 120). Important limiting factors to such a realisation lie in forms of power-knowledge that privilege the state or high-level, technocratic institutional dynamics as the determining elements in international relations and processes of regionalisation. Moreover, prevailing modalities of power-knowledge are anchored in representations of historical development that both function as justifications of the asymmetric and exclusionary practices based on state-centric politics and ignore the extent to which international structures and processes lay deep roots in an ethnocentric narrative. The discourses of European integration and their relation to global realities affected by or interacting with them, particularly in the South, are a telling example. Not only they carry over forms of self-presentation of Europe as the originating point of universal history or the key to any narrative of modernity, but they also put forward the European case as a model for virtuous forms of integration and cooperation across national borders (cf. Escobar, 2004; Medeiros, 2010; Merenson, 2007; Farrell, 2007, 2009; Moravcsik, 2007; Telò, 2007; Habermas, 2009).

Whether from an intellectual or a socially-activist perspective, agency has increasingly been understood and claimed to assert alternative figurations of being-together which insist on the need for a critical, agonistic contestation of apparently well-meaning and neutral expressions of such a model. At an intellectual level, postcolonial and other critical modes of discourse have articulated compelling rejections of the exemplary logic governing European relations to new or aspiring members and to international or regional partners. At the level of social activism, networks of civil associations, gathered around the banner of the alterglobalist movement, have become active participants in debates and initiatives connected with policies and politics of integration, domestically and globally. However marginal these two modalities of "postcolonial" agency of integration remain to certain levels of decision making, their impact can no longer be ignored. With and against existing hegemonic discourses of integration, cooperation and regionalisation, such an agency begins to find ways not only to be heard, but also to set the agenda and the deliberative tone in certain areas. …

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