Retrieving the ‘subject’ of European integration

Published date01 January 2019
Date01 January 2019
Retrieving the subjectof European integration
Päivi Johanna Neuvonen*
In this article, a critical reinterpretation of citizens as subjects of European integration moves the
focus of EU law from EU citizens' subjection to their subjectification. This analysis draws on post
structural social theory in arguing that the law is instrumental to securing the material conditions
for transnational political subjectification because it regulates both EU citizens' access to transna-
tional social relations and the perception of difference between them. However, the law also rein-
forces constraints on the process of transnational subjectification. Systematic obstacles, which
must be taken into account, are not limited to economic status, but include other variables like gen-
der or age. It will be argued on this basis that EU law needs to develop a more coherent politics of
subjectivity. Towards this goal, the law must carefully attend to what is (and is not) depoliticising in
EU citizenship rights.
The EU legal order is famous for its promise to recognise citizens of the Member States as subjects of European legal
However, it can be argued that putting flesh on this principle has fostered citizens' subjection, rather
than their subjectification.
This criticism refers to the fact that, with few exceptions, EU citizens' contribution to
the project of European integration is still indirect at its best and conspicuous by its absence at its worst. In this arti-
cle, the ambiguous position of citizens as subjects of European integration is depicted as a major source of detach-
ment in the EU. In order to clarify this argument and its implications for European legal integration, the article will
take a detour into poststructural social theory.
The poststructural analysis of subjectivity contends that becoming an active political subject of European inte-
gration, as opposed to being a passive subject of the EU legal order, is implausible without a sense of transnational
The compelling question to the legal analysis of a European subject is therefore under what conditions
Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland (
The author warmly thanks the Editorial Board and the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments.
Starting from the Court's statement in Case C26/62, Van Gend en Loos, ECLI:EU:C:1963:1 that the Community constitutes a new
legal order of international law the subjects of which comprise not only Member States but also their nationals.
The important conceptual distinction is made between an EU citizen as a subjected subject and as a subjectified subject. The term sub-
jectionrefers to the act of subjecting something or someone to one's control, whereas the term subjectificationrefers to the act of
subjectifying, that is, of making something subjective or being made subjective.
The term transnational subjectivityrefers to a transnational self. Transnational subjectivity is a precondition for EU citizens' trans-
national selfunderstanding and, thus, for their political subjectification as EU citizens. For more on this, see Section 3.
Received: 16 May 2017 Revised: 17 October 2018 Accepted: 18 October 2018
DOI: 10.1111/eulj.12301
6© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Eur Law J. 2019;

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