A Postsovereign Europe
THE project of European political integration has two very different possible ends: one, a European superstate; and two, a postsovereign European polity. The European superstate—also sometimes described as a “federal Europe”—remains the eurosceptics' worst nightmare. Before this European superstate can become a reality, it will require the dissolution of all of Europe's current sovereign nation-states. So controversial is the idea of a European superstate that most proponents of the European project prefer to rally behind the idea of a postsovereign European polity—also sometimes described as “a confederal Europe.”
Whether a postsovereign polity represents a more modest, less transformative aspiration than the superstate remains, however, a matter of dispute. Some proponents of the postsovereign polity claim that the European Union (EU) is now already a postsovereign polity. For these people, “the promised land,” as it were, has already arrived.1 What tasks remain are those of fine-tuning the institutions and spreading the good news. Thus, for Neil MacCormick, neither Europe's member states nor the EU are sovereign.2 Postsovereignty describes the situation prevailing in Europe today.
In contrast to those who believe that Europe is already postsovereign, other europhiles believe that the promised land still lies ahead and will not be reached until Europe has removed more (if not all) of the vestiges of national government. These people entertain a variety of different conceptions of the form of a postsovereign Europe. This more radical vision of a postsovereign Europe draws inspiration from the writings of a number of contemporary political philosophers who believe that the sovereign state has profound, disabling weaknesses.3 From this postsovereign perspective, the sovereign state is necessarily hostile to the “deep diversity” present in modern societies; it is indifferent to the welfare of those outside its borders; it resists the establishment of an overarching conception of cosmopolitan law; and it establishes a fixed and final set of rights rather than an open-ended process of constitutional dialogue. Europhiles inspired by this vision propose a radically decentered polity that is held together by practices of dialogue and contestation.4