General overview

Brexit, the unilateral declaration of secession by Catalonia, the Donald Trump presidency, the rise of anti-system, Eurosceptic and anti-politics parties, the emergence of cryptocurrencies, failing states in the Middle East. Listed like this, these and other similar developments can be seen as random events and their political consequences that characterise a world in flux. For many commentators and academics, they are signs of the return of populism to politics.
This project begins from a different premise and sees them as features of a society that no longer has political epicentres: of politics without a centre (PWOC).
So much of how we think about modern social and political life has a central reference point: the concept of sovereignty that centralizes political authority; traditional models of political behavior emphasize the median voter and the centre of the political spectrum. But if the “centre does not hold”, will mere anarchy be loosened upon the world, to paraphrase Yeats? Are claims about “taking back control” or wanting to secure borders reflections not about a resurgence of nationalism but expressions of anxiety or unease about politics without a centre? Is the EU the source of this problem in Europe or the solution? The European Union is central to addressing these questions and to the proposed project. It is contested as both a cause and a solution to politics without a centre. 

The aim of this project, therefore, is three-fold:

  • First, it wants to contribute to academic research and debates about some of the contemporary challenges to governing and political order in the European Union, its member states and beyond. It will frame this by addressing three sets of issues:
    - the extent to which there has been an erosion of political epicentres;
    - what might be some of the consequences for politics and society if there has been;
    - whether the EU is a cause or a solution to PWOC.
  • Second, it aims to improve how we teach about the EU and politics in general.  
  • Third, the proposed Chair aims to contribute to broader public debates about the nature of politics and policy in Europe and beyond.