Kalypso Nicolaïdis

is Professor of International Relations and director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Oxford. She was previously associate professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She is also chair of Southeastern European Studies at Oxford and Council member of the European Council of Foreign Relations. In 2008-2010, she was a member of the Gonzales reflection group on the future of Europe 2030. She also served as advisor on European affairs to George Papandreou in the 90s and early 2000s. She has published widely on international relations as well as the internal and external aspects of European integration in numerous journals including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Journal of Common Market Studies, Journal of European Public Policy  and International Organization. Her last book is European Stories: Intellectual Debates on Europe in National Context (OUP, 2011).  She received her PhD from Harvard in 1993. More information is on her website: http://www.sant.ox.ac.uk/esc/knicolaidis/

Research Project

The Crisis of European Demoi-cracy


As illustrated by the work of a number of previous Straus fellows, there are many ways to ponder the multifaceted dilemma, conflicts and promises associated with living in a world of differences where radical pluralism is alternatively prevalent and threatened.  We may ask in particular what happens when the “burden of democracy” is transformed, magnified and mitigated as polities enter trans-national pacts which deeply affect their respective democratic fabric. We tend to speak of “democracy beyond the state”, as if the issue was one of gradual upgrading of democratic scale, when we ought to focus on democracy among states, shifting our gaze from vertical to  horizontal shifts of sovereignty, thus eschewing attempts to define a single relevant constituent people, in favour of analysing the idea of transnational unions of peoples engaged in political, economic, social and cultural mutual recognition. And this is what I see as the promise of European demoi-cracy, a promise that is today close to being broken, perhaps irrevocably.

If European demoi-cracy is indeed a historically unstable equilibrium, one which has repeatedly been imagined in the last centuries but never achieved, one constantly pulled away from its narrow path by classic forces of fission and fusion, on what normative grounds should we seek to uphold such an equilibrium here and now?  How in particular can Europe be saved from the demons of oneness and messianism (Weiler)? There is more at stake than the EU here – indeed I suggest,  nothing less than the peaceful settlement of the age-old and many-faced war between nomads and settlers regarding the ground-rules for their interaction.

The aim of my research project is to offer a holistic understanding of European demoi-cracy on both empiral and normative grounds, against the backdrop of the (very) longue durée.  Inspired by Adorno’s 'immanent critique' as the ground for progressive change or Walzer’s caution against universals ungrounded within historical reality, I take as my starting point elements of past political constructs as well as of the existing EU and extract from their immanent characteristics a normative (demoi-cratic) benchmark to suggest how existing practices can be a source of imagined transformations.