European Civil Service in (Times of) Crisis: A Political Sociology of the Changing Power of Eurocrats

European Civil Service in (Times of) Crisis: A Political Sociology of the Changing Power of Eurocrats

Tuesday, 30 October 2018 - 12:30pm to 2:30pm
Seminar Room, European Studies Centre, 70 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HR
Professor Dr Didier Georgakakis (J. Monnet Chair, University Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne - European Centre for Sociology and Political Science)
Professor Agnès Alexandre-Collier (Maison Française d'Oxford)
ESC Lunchtime Seminar

European Civil Service in (Times of) Crisis: A Political Sociology of the Changing Power of Eurocrats.

Much emphasis has been put on European crises, the difficulties that the EU’s largest and most visible actors (Heads of State and Government, Presidents of the Commission and ECB, etc.)  have had reaching agreement on tense issues such as Greece and the Euro, migration and refugees, and, soon, negotiating Brexit with the UK. Such a focus neglects the deeper sociological factors that are seizing up the EU’s engine, however. This book explores another crisis, more discreet than the ones that create the headlines, which has a direct impact on Europe’s capacities to re-energize the European project, a “crisis of reproduction” affecting the European Civil Service and its 40 000 functionaries. The corps of European civil servants was thought to be to be the EU equivalent of what the civil service is for a State, an independent, competent and visionary base to stabilize the numerous political and economic conflicts of interest resulting from the pursuit of an “Ever Closer Union.” But today it is experiencing deep changes that are progressively making it resemble progressively the staff of a classic international organisation more than the custodian of a state in formation. This transformation, observable in a dense context of management reforms, enlargements, institutional changes, and the Euro-zone crisis, is an important shift with many consequences in terms of power, frustration, internal tension between staff and around the definition of European public policies, and, perhaps, on the capacities of EU institutions to embody a European future. It also raises an interesting paradox in the Brexit context : are the British really leaving the EU after having won the battle over its administrative model ? The EU’s civil service in times of crisis seeks to study this process through a series of empirically grounded case-studies that include archival research, statistical biographies, interviews, and ethnographic observations. Inspired by a Webero-Bourdieusan sociology of bureaucrats and in line with the new trends of political sociology and field theory in EU studies, it breaks both with the usual common representations of eurocrats and academic studies focusing on organisations and attitudes by seeking to penetrate today’s enclosed world of the European bureaucracy and the internal power struggles around the definition of Europe and its civil service.

A visiting professor at Bruges since ten years, Didier Georgakakis is since 2012 a Professor of political science at University Paris1 - Panthéon Sorbonne where he holds a Jean Monnet Chair and chairs the Sorbonne Master degree in European public affairs and the joint ENA/Paris 1 Master degree on policies in Europe. He was previously a Professor at Sciences-Po Strasbourg (1997-2012) and a junior member of the Institut Universitaire de France (2007-2012). One of the founders of the historical and political sociology of the EU, his teaching and research deal with studies on the professionals of EU policies and governance and broader transdisciplinary perspectives on European integration and transnational social fields.

A light lunch will be provided.

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