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A ‘Minefield of Misreckonings’: Europe’s Constitutional Pluralism

  • Emilios Christodoulidis


The paper is a critique of ‘constitutional pluralism’, as increasingly called upon to compensate for the social and democratic deficits of the European project, and of ‘constitutionalisation’ as compensating for the absence of any semblance of ‘constituent power’ at the European level. The substitution has been largely successful in redefining the terms of the debate. My interest in this paper, more specifically, is with constitutionalisation as a process of ‘becoming-constitutional’, the conditions of that process, and the criteria of ascription of constitutionality. My argument is that it involves a constitutive coupling with constitutional pluralism, such that allows even the current crisis to be portrayed as an ‘opportunity’ for Europe’s alleged ‘social market economy for the 21st century’ to ‘come out stronger’, its progress at no point obstructed or derailed by the peoples’ of Europe resistance to it.



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1 Anderson, P, The New Old World (New York and London, Verso, 2009) 88 .

2 See: Luhmann, N, Social Systems (Stanford, Calif, Stanford University Press, 1995) esp ch 2.

3 As in Teubner, G, Constitutional Fragments: Societal Constitutionalism and Globalization (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012).

4 The language of comparative advantage refers here to the recent Laval/Viking jurisprudence of the ECJ, in which the ‘unprotecting’ of labour was largely discussed and defended according to such a logic. See section VII below.

5 He adds: ‘Papandreou’s humiliation at the Cannes G20 summit of Nov 3—unprecedented for a European leader—was the logical consequence of this false, although undeniably overdue, democratic naivety.’ ( Kouvelakis, S, ‘The Greek Cauldron’ (2011) 72 New Left Review 17–32, 25).

6 See esp: Giandomenico Majone’s seminal work and for the shift compare Majone, G, Regulating Europe (London, Routledge, 1996) and Majone, G, Europe as a Would-be World Power (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009).

7 Müller, JW, Contesting Democracy: Political Ideas in Twentieth-century Europe (New Haven, Conn, Yale University Press, 2011).

8 Müller, JW,’Beyond Militant Democracy?’ (2012) 73 New Left Review 40 .

9 See: Majone, Regulating Europe (n 5).

10 Habermas, J and Luhmann, N, Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie: Was leistet die Systemforschung? (Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1971).

11 Rogowski, R and Turner, C, The Shape of the New Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006).

12 Habermas, J, Ach Europa. Kleine politische Schriften XL (Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2008), which appeared in English in 2009 as Habermas, J, Europe: A Faltering Project (Cambridge, Polity, 2009) enhanced with three important essays.

13 Habermas, J, Zur Verfassung Europas: Ein Essay (Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 2011).

14 Anderson, P, ‘After the Event’ (2012) 73 New Left Review 47–60, 51.

15 Ibid, 52.

16 In Habermas, Zur Verfassung Europas (n 13) 77.

17 Maduro, M, ‘The Importance of being Called a Constitution: Constitutional Authority and the Authority of Constitutionalism’ (2005) 3 International Journal of Constitutional Law 332, 336.

18 See C Thornhill, ‘The Many Books about the Many Constitutions of Europe’ (2012) Social & Legal Studies.

19 N MacCormick, ‘Beyond the Sovereign State’ (1993) Modern Law Review 1.

20 MacCormick, N, Questioning Sovereignty (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999).

21 See Hyman, R, ‘Flexible Rigidities: A Model for Social Europe?’ in Alonso, LE and Lucio, M Martínez (eds), Employment Relations in a Changing Society: Assessing the Post Fordist Paradigm (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) 215–22.

22 Walker, N, ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism: Looking beyond the German Debate’ in Tuori, K and Sankari, S (eds), The Many Constitutions of Europe (Farnham, Ashgate, 2010) 144 .

23 Ibid, 145.

24 Pernice now urges ‘a more pragmatic approach, a purely technocratic improvement of the primary role of the EU by simply amending the existing founding treaties’ as the ‘European way of salvaging the Constitution of Europe’. Quoted in Kuo, MS, ‘From Myth to Fiction’ (2009) 29/3 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 579, 581.

25 Walker, N, ‘The Idea of Constitutional Pluralism’ (2002) 65 Modern Law Review 317 .

26 Ibid, 339–40.

27 See Walker, ‘The Idea of Constitutional Pluralism’ (n 25); Walker, N, ‘Postnational Constitutionalism and the Problem of Translation’ in Weiler, J and Wind, M (eds), Constitutionalism Beyond the State (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003) 27–54 ; Walker, N, ‘The Migration of Constitutional Ideas and the Migration of the Constitutional Idea’ in Choudry, S (ed), The Migration of Constitutional Ideas (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007) 316–44; Walker, N, ‘Taking Constitutionalism beyond the State’ (2008) 56 Political Studies 519–43; Walker, ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22).

28 Walker, , ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22) 149 .

29 Walker, , ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22) 152 .

30 Walker, , ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22) 152 .

31 Walker, , ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22) 152 .

32 Walker, , ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22) 152 .

33 Walker, , ‘Multi-level Constitutionalism’ (n 22) 160 .

34 This is distinctly different an approach to the relation between concept and conception to that provided by Wittgenstein’s concept of ‘family resemblances’. The introduction of the latter allows a certain loosening of the hold of the ‘concept’ over the ‘conceptions’, or the general category over its concretisations, since it is no longer the case that the former (‘concept’) sets the necessary and sufficient conditions that need to obtain for the inclusion of the latter (‘conceptions’) under its ambit. For an analysis of Wittgenstein’s notion see Mulhall, S, Inheritance and Originality (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001). With ‘family resemblances’, no set of features need to be shared by all instances: instead ‘overlapping resemblances pass from one case to another via intermediate cases’ (p 84). The notion relies on their being a significant overlap between cases where the criteria of what can be deemed significant need not meet any closed list of conditions.

35 Polanyi, K, The Great Transformation (Boston, Mass, Beacon Press, 1944).

36 Scharpf, FW, ‘The European Social Model: Coping with the Challenges of Diversity’ (2002) 40 Journal of Common Market Studies 645, 645–46.

37 See Joerges, C, ‘Will the Welfare State Survive European Integration?’ (2011) 1 European Journal of Social Law 4 .

38 Amongst the best here: Giubboni, S, Social Rights and Market Freedom in the European Constitution: a Labour Law Perspective (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006); Joerges, C, ‘What is Left of the European Economic Constitution? A Melancholic Eulogy’ (2005) 30 European Law Review 461–89; Streit, ME and Mussler, W, ‘The Economic Constitution of the European Community: From Rome to Maastricht’ (1995) 1 European law Journal 5–30 .

39 Joerges, , ‘What is Left’ (n 38) 468 .

40 Connected principally with the Weimar lawyer Hugo Sinzheimer; see Dukes, R, ‘Constitutionalising Employment Relations: Sinzheimer, Kahn-Freund and the Role of Labour Law’ (2008) 25 Journal of Law and Society 341 .

41 Scharpf, FW, Crisis and Choice in European Social Democracy (Ithaca, Cornell, 1991) 274 .

42 Joerges, , ‘Will the Welfare State Survive European Integration?’ (n 37) 8 .

43 Joerges, , ‘Will the Welfare State Survive European Integration?’ (n 37) 10 .

44 Hyman, R, ‘Trade Unions and the Politics of the European social model’ (2005) 26 Economic and Industrial Democracy 9–40, 29.

45 Supiot, A, Homo Juridicus (London, Verso, 2008); Supiot, A, L’esprit de la Philadelphie: la justice social face au marché total (Paris, Seuil, 2010).

46 See, chiefly: Cappelletti, M, M Seccombe and Weiler, J (eds), Integration through Law(Berlin, de Gruyter, 1986).

47 See Cahill, M, ‘European Integration and European Constitutionalism: Consonances and Dissonances’ in Augenstein, D (ed), ‘Integration through Law’ Revisited: The Making of the European Polity (Farnham, Ashgate, 2012).

48 Ronald Dworkin’s influence in the field has been significant.

49 Augenstein, , ‘Integration through Law’ Revisited (n 47) 3 .

50 Compare here Foucault’s insightful analysis on this point in his 1978/9 lectures at the Collège de France: Foucault, M, The Birth of Biopolitics (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

51 Majone, , Europe as a Would-be World Power (n 6) 128 .

52 Joerges, , ‘Will the Welfare State Survive’ (n 37) 4 .

53 Joerges, , ‘Will the Welfare State Survive’ (n 37) 14 .

54 Majone, , Europe as a Would-be World Power (n 6) 205ff.

55 Joerges, , ‘Will the Welfare State Survive’ (n 37) 17 .

56 Supiot, A, ‘Under Eastern Eyes’ (2012) 73 New Left Review 29, 35.

57 B Kingsbury, ‘The Concept of Law in Global Administrative Law’ (2009) European Journal of International Law 23–25, 32.

58 Thornhill, ‘The Many Books about the Many Constitutions of Europe’ (n 18).

59 Weiler, J, A Constitution for Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999) 8 .

60 Elsewhere, Weiler: ‘Mystery, mist and mirrors notwithstanding, one thing has always seemed clear: that the community and union were about “laying the foundations of an ever closer union of the people of Europe.” Not the creation of one people, but the union of many.’ (quoted in Rogowski, R and Turner, C, The Shape of the New Europe (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006) 7 .

61 Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, A, ‘When “no” Means “yes”: A Constitution for Europe and the Limits of Ignorance’ in Petersen, H et al (eds), Paradoxes of European Legal Integration (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008) 38 .

62 Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, , ‘When “no” Means “yes”’ (n 61) 44 .

63 Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, , ‘When “no” Means “yes”’ (n 61) 43 .


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