First Lecture in CEUR Guest Speakers Series
On 20 January 2011, Antoine Vauchez, Adjunct Professor, Sorbonne University, Paris/ Research Professor, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CURAPP Research Unit), delivered the first lecture of the Center for European Union Research (CEUR) Guest Speakers series in 2011 entitled “The European Court of Justice, Transnational Esprit de Corps and the Social Fabric of Pan-European Jurisprudence: New Research Path.” In many regards, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) remains an enigma in the field of European studies. While the other major EC institutions have had changing priorities and agendas over time and across policy domains, the ECJ has continuously maintained a pan-European jurisprudence over the decades. It is all the more striking that the ECJ has been facing at the same time a growing internal heterogeneity—in particular following the recent waves of enlargement—and increasingly critical audiences, in particular following recent landmark cases in the domain of social rights. The lecture explored how the court can then act as a consistent and unfailing institution in such context. Strangely enough, there is almost no academic account raising such enigma; most frequently, studies take for granted that the ECJ is a unitary and rational actor. Drawing from already long experience of research on the ECJ, the presentation of Antoine Vauchez suggested new research paths looking at the ECJ as a particular “social fabric” and considered how a specific transnational esprit de corps has been produced and re-produced among its members. He talked about alternative ways of conducting research on the decision-making of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). This court is rated as one of the most powerful judiciary in the world; yet, little is known about the way it reaches its decisions. He also addressed the particular puzzle of how the ECJ had maintained such a consistent jurisprudence in the face of growing external pressures and internal instabilities. He identified the shortcomings in existing legal and political scholarships. As he explained, both failed to integrate the 'social fabric' of the European Union supreme judicial body into their analyses, thereby missing out on potentially significant explanatory factors. He argued that the court remains a silent institution, which protects itself against 'internal' investigation, and illustrated how sociological approaches, such as the sociology of rituals, could help open the black-box of the Court, and understand the social dynamics behind European judicial preferences. The lecture was attended by students from various CEU departments, and external participants. The chair was Marie-Pierre Granger, Associate Professor, Department of Public Policy/CEUR.
Antoine Vauchez is a Research Professor (Directeur de recherche) in Political Sociology at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CURAPP Research Unit) and an Adjunct Professor at the Sorbonne. Trained both at the Sorbonne and Sciences Po Paris, he received his PhD at the European University Institute (2000) and was then a post-doctoral fellow at the American Bar Foundation (Northwestern University) and a Marie Curie Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre. His current research interest focuses on the historical and sociological study of the process of judicialization of EU with a particular interest in transnational legal elites. On this issue, he recently edited three Symposiums (Critique Internationale, Law and Social Inquiry, Revue Française de Science Politique) and three (co-)edited volumes (La Constitution européenne. Elites, mobilisations, votes, Bruxelles, 2007; Dans la fabrique du droit européen, Bruxelles, 2009; The European Legal Field, to be published, 2010). His most recent papers have been published in European Law Journal, European Political Science, International Political Sociology.