Conference: “Political philosophy ‘classics’ and the European integration”, on 20 and 21 January 2022

“European sovereignty”, “hamiltonian moment” of European federalism, “post-democratic, bureaucratic rule”; what does European integration produce in light of “classical” concepts of political theory?

The main objective of this conference is to bring together philosophers, political scientists and theorists of the European union (EU) in order to evaluate the use of the “classics” to grasp the EU as a political phenomenon – while questioning this notion of “classics”. If the scholars in European studies have long treated the European integration as sui generis (of its own kind), it has never been built ex nihilo, without relation with the political, historical and philosophical realities of Europe. On the contrary, the political issues discussed in the EU are part of a continuum between the national and the European political system. The EU has been constituted in this basis and it exports, at a more extensive level of power, the democratic and sovereignist debates that have traditionally been encountered at the national level. European integration distances us from our political evidence –sovereignty, democracy, federalism/statism, etc.– while giving them new meaning. In that case, the benefit to understand the EU through the prism of modern philosophers (Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Publius, etc.) is to grasp the evolution of the political concepts and to address them in the novel European context. In other words, referring to the “classics” helps us to sharpen our questions and broaden our conceptual solutions.

The methodological question that will run through the conference will be to determine the place of theorists within European studies. Philosophers very early engaged with the theme of contemporary Europe (Husserl 1929, Patočka 1938), entered the field of European studies very late. The turning point occurs with the Maastricht Treaty: thanks to the democratic claims and the European citizenship, the EU became a political entity and reconnected with the classic themes of constitution, representation, legitimacy or participation (Bellamy & Castiglione 2003, Bellamy & Lacey, 2017). The normative view of the European studies means to shift the objective of the theory of EU from an explanatory role of the integration to a critical role of its results (Diez & Wiener, 2019). Therefore, between “intemperance” of overly critical theorists (Leca 2015) and “non-ideal theory”, the general question is the link between philosophers and European scholars (Friese & Wagner 2002): by what method of updating the modern authors do the contemporary philosophers make themselves audible to political scientists and how, conversely, do the latter make consistent use of the theoretical references of political philosophy? Do classical figures appear as sources of inspiration, evaluation grids or outdated models to be overcome? More specifically, how do EU theorists innovate or renew theoretical approaches on sovereignty, federalism and democracy?

Panel's content  


  • Introduction, 10:30
    • Nicolas Arens (Post-doc UCLouvain)
      • “The prism of the 'classics' and European conceptual innovation”
  • Democracy, 11:00-13:00
    • Chair: Hugo Canihac (Post-doc, Université Saint-Louis)
    • Discussant: Arnauld Leclerc (Professor, Université de Nantes)
    • Christopher Lord (Professor, Arena, Oslo)
      • « Externalities, Collective Action Problems and the Indirect Legitimacy of the European Union. Lessons from Hume and Kant »
    • Martin Deleixhe (Associate professor, ULB)
      • « Anarchasis Cloots, penseur intempestif de l’intégration européenne ? Réflexions sur l’inclination cosmopolitique de la souveraineté populaire »
    • Nicolas Arens (Post-doc, UCLouvain)
      • « Perspective tocquevillienne sur l’entre-deux démocratique de l’intégration européenne »

Lunch 13:00-14:30

  • Sovereignty, 14:30-16:30
    • Chair: Nathalie Brack (Professor, ULB)
    • Discussants: Quentin Landenne (Researcher fellow FNRS, Université Saint-Louis, Bruxelles), Tristan Storme (Associate professor, Université de Nantes).
    • Céline Spector (Professor, Sorbonne)
      • « La souveraineté peut-elle être européenne ? L’héritage des Lumières »
    • Thibaut Dauphin (Post-doc, CMRP IRM)
      • « La souveraineté et l’idée européenne dans les œuvres de Voltaire et de Rousseau »
    • Hugo Canihac (Post-doc, Université Saint-Louis)
      • “From Kant to Hume? The Post-Sovereign Transformation of Europe”
    • Alina Pogurschi (PhD, Paris 1)
      • « « Souveraineté numérique européenne » : réalité juridique ou expression au service du discours (géo)politique ? »

Break 16h30-17h

  • Round table, 17:00-18:00
    • Chair: Virginie Van Ingelgom (Chercheuse qualifiée F.R.S-FNRS, UCLouvain)
    • John Érik Fossum, Céline Spector, Christopher Lord
      • « How to think “in” crisis? Political philosophy and European studies: compasses, combat sports or eternal Cassandras? »


  • Federalism, 10:00-12:00
    • Chair: Denis Duez (Professor, Université Saint-Louis, Bruxelles).
    • Discussants: Andrew Glencross (Associate professor, ESPOL Lille), Helder De Schutter (Professor, KULeuven)
    • John E. Fossum (Professor, Arena, Oslo)
      • « On the search for viable governance in contested federal-type settings: the European Union and Canada compared »
    • Gunter Zöller (Professor, LMU, Munich)
      • « Madison cum Hamilton. The Twin Legacy of American Republicanism and Federalism For a Unified Europe »
    • Christian Franck (Professor emeritus, UCLouvain, Diplomatische Akademie Wien)
      • « L’UE à la croisée du diplomatique (Interstate bargaining) et de l’interinstitutionnel (Institutions matter) »
    • Pieter De Corte (PhD, UCLouvain/Sorbonne).
      • « Le principe de souveraineté et le modèle fédéraliste à l'épreuve de l'Europe »

Lunch 12h-13h30

  • Panel PhD, 13:30-15:30
    • Chair: Clément Fontan (Professor, UCLouvain)
    • Discussants: Céline Spector, Christopher Lord, John Erik Fossum.
    • Alexandre Lefebvre (école de droit de la Sorbonne)
      •  « Quelle place pour le contractualisme dans l’Union européenne ? »
    • James Corne (école de droit de la Sorbonne)
      •  « L’exigence de bonne législation comme forme d’intégration : une lecture de l’intégration européenne à partir du rationalisme classique »
    • Hugo Toudic (Sorbone/Université de Chicago)
      • « Sovereignty’s eclipse: Montesquieu, The Federalist and Separation of Powers »
    • Marcello Ciola (UCLouvain)
      • « « Tuer le Léviathan » : la pratique de la PESC/PSDC comme défi vers la conception « classique » de la souveraineté »
  • Conclusion, 15:30-16:00
    • Nicolas Arens

Panel's content Table

If you want to attend the conference, please register in advance via this link: A Zoom link will be sent to you before the conference. For organisational reasons related to covid, the audience in the room must be strictly limited to 49 people.



With the support of 

Published on January 10, 2022