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Contesting Europe: the constitutive impact of discursive dynamics on national referendum campaigns

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2010

Stefan Seidendorf*
Deutsch-Französisches Institut, Asperger Straße 34 D–71634 Ludwigsburg, Germany


A comparison of two referendum campaigns on Europe in France and Ireland shows two different patterns of mobilisation. Focusing on the perceived influence of the European treaties on national legislation on abortion, two different types of Euro-scepticism can be discerned. One is settled in a potentially universal project of ‘enlightenment’ (fearing the ‘criminalisation’ of abortion due to EU (European Union) regulations), the other is concerned with the defence of the nation’s democratic sovereignty against the EU (and fears ‘liberalisation’ of abortion due to the same EU regulations). A discourse analysis of these two different settings establishes the ‘discursive dynamics’ of each campaign: How were actors constituted (into ‘legitimate’ actors) and how could the (differing) interpretations of EU treaty provisions become plausible and constitute into different national discourses? Instead of perceiving social variables (norms, rules, identities) as ‘independent’ factors that explain outcomes, the social process of their constitution is at the centre of this analysis. Understanding how and when certain actors and certain topics (or problematiques) come into being (are ‘constituted’) may, in turn, allow some ‘reasoned claims’ on the character of popular Euro-scepticism.

Research Article
Copyright © European Consortium for Political Research 2010

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