«A thesis submitted to the Department of Political Science and International Studies of the University of Birmingham for the degree of Doctor of ...»
This change is another point on which constructivists criticise positivists. In distinction to the aim of the latter to find laws that hold true over space and time, which requires constancy and implies an essence of the object under investigation (i.e.
borders), according to constructivists, the meaning of things changes over time. 108 Thus, 106 Ibid., pp. 76-77 107 For constructivists social interaction takes place at all levels, i.e. between ordinary citizens or between national and EU elites. Given that my data is formed primarily of Commission documents, my research is focused at the elitist level of border configuration. A collection of studies that examine the “border work” of citizens is Chris Rumford (ed.), „Space and Polity‟, Special Issue, 12: 1 (2008).
108 Michel Foucault was among the first to develop this argument, which runs through all of his contributions. See for example, Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison 44 they argue that the meaning of things: “is conferred by historically specific systems of rules.”109 Hence, for constructivists it is of central importance to be able to interrogate the ways in which meanings are created. They do this by advancing the concept of discourse. This notion has gained an ever-increasing importance in Social Sciences in the last decades. However, this growing popularity of the term has been accompanied with a proliferation of the ways in which it is employed. 110 The employment of the term in this study follows the way it is understood by post-structuralists. For me discourse refers: “to historically specific systems of meaning which form the identities of subjects and objects.”111 In these systems: “meaning depends upon a socially constructed system of rules and significant differences”. 112 Since above I explained why and how the system of rules is socially constructed, the crucial question now becomes how exactly these significant differences function. An account of this process is indispensable for understanding the mechanisms through which borders are transformed. The post-structuralist account builds upon the earlier structuralist work of Ferdinand Saussure. Post-structuralists follow his argument that every sign consists of a signifier (the word used) and a signified (the object that the signifier denotes). Thus, the meaning of a sign (a word) is a result of the difference between this word and other words. For example, the meaning of “fork” is a result of it NOT being a “spoon”, a “knife” or a “ladle”. Post-structuralists, however, disagree with Saussure‟s view that there is a neat correlation between a signified (the object) and a signifier (the word).113 Instead, they argue that there is not a clear or stable relation between a signified and a signifier. This can be exemplified well with the existence of metaphors, which use the same signifier to refer to different signifieds. The reason for (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979); Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: a History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (Abingdon: Routledge, 2001) 109 David Howarth, Yannis Stavrakakis, „Introducing Discourse Theory and Political Analysis‟ in David
Howarth, Aletta Norval, Yannis Stavrakakis (eds), Discourse Theory and Political Analysis (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 1-23, p. 2 110 The following studies offer good summaries of the different ways in which discourse is understood in Social Sciences: Margaret Wetherell, Stephanie Taylor, Simeon Yates (eds), Discourse as Data – a Guide for Analysis (London: Sage, 2001); Elinor Scarbrough, Eric Tanenbaum (eds), Research Strategies in the Social Sciences – a Guide to New Approaches (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); Ernesto Laclau, „Discourse‟ in Robert E. Goodin, Philip Pettit (eds), Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), pp. 431-437; Ruth Wodak, Michael Meyer (eds), Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis (London: Sage, 2001) 111 Foucault cited in David Howarth, Discourse (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000), p.9 112 Laclau and Mouffe cited in Ibid., p. 8 113 This brief summary of the arguments of Saussure is based on Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory – an Introduction (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), p. 110 45 this absence of a stable relation between signified and signifier is that nothing derives its meaning from outside this interplay between signifiers. This has two important repercussions, according to post-structuralists. Firstly, as Derrida shows, it is not possible to define anything outside language – every definition ultimately depends on other words. Secondly, all meaning is relational, i.e. it is based on particular structuring of the relations between different words.114 Furthermore, post-structuralists argue that there is always something more than what is expressed in a particular text. This “more” resides in the resistances that the text encounters, in the unexpected ways in which the terms it employs are interpreted, in the unassimilated shifts in surface significations that reveal them to have hidden depths.115 Therefore, they claim that the meaning of a text is always contingent upon other texts. They refer to this as intertextuality. 116 Hansen‟s elaboration on the relational nature of meaning is crucial in developing an understanding of how meaning is created in discourses. According to her, the production of meaning is a result of the simultaneous occurrence of two processes, which she refers to as differentiation and linking. Linking is the positive process of spelling out the particular characteristics of the signifier in question (i.e. fork), while differentiation, is the negative process of delimiting the signifiers that are not the signifier in question (i.e. spoon, knife, ladle).117 Due to the impossibility of defining anything outside of the interplay between signifiers it is possible to construct different meanings for the same signifier. These different meanings are an outcome of the application of different processes of linking and differentiation with regards to the same signifier. For example, the signifier “meat” can be (and is) linked and differentiated in a variety of ways (i.e. linked with nutrition, health, strength, power or butchering, torturing, waste of resources, unnatural food for humans and differentiated with fruits and vegetables). Each of these two systems of linking and differentiation represents a 114
In Madan Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Post-Modernism (2nd ed.) (London:
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993), pp. 32-38; Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory – an Introduction (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), pp. 110-116 115
William E. Connolly, Identity/ Difference – Democratic Negotiations of Political Paradox (London:
Cornell University Press, 1994), p. 38 116 See for example Chris Brown, „‟Turtles All the Way Down‟: Anti-Foundationalism, Critical Theory and International Relations‟, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 23: 2 (1994), pp. 213-236, p.
224 117 Lene Hansen, Security as Practice – Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 19. It should be noted that although in this section I have employed Hansen‟s elaboration of the process of production of meaning, linking and differentiation that she refers to were first developed by Laclau and Mouffe in their notion of equivalence.
46 particular discourse on the signifier in question, in our case meat, and produces a specific meaning of it (in the first case it is a positive one, contributing to humans‟ wellbeing, while in the second case the meaning is negative, associated with harmful or unpleasant activities and results). This possibility to have different representations on one and the same issue is the reason why post-strucutralists regard discourses as inherently unstable, although they are highly structured.118 Furthermore, this instability of discourses also makes them political. As Laclau and Mouffe have argued in their groundbreaking work, politics has primacy over other issues, such as economy. 119 Thus, post-structuralists see the various systems of social relations as: “articulated sets of discourses, [which] are always political constructions involving the construction of antagonisms and the exercise of power.”120 The successful exercise of power leads to hegemony. It: “is achieved if and when one political project or force determines the rules and meanings in a particular social formation … the concept of hegemony centres on which political force will decide the dominant forms of conduct and meaning in a given social context.”121 Thus, a hegemonic discourse is one that is successful in stabilising the relationships of linking and differentiation between signs. Nevertheless, even hegemonic discourses, due to the inherent instability referred to above, cannot completely suppress alternative representations. If the alternative representations are based on assumptions opposing these of the hegemonic discourse or if they in any other way advance understandings incompatible with it, they have the potential to present a serious challenge to the hegemonic discourse. In Discourse Theory, such a rivalry is called antagonism. It occurs at the margins of every social system, where the forces that are excluded in the process of formation of a particular discourse contest it and strive to advance an alternative representation.122 In summary, according to post-structuralist discourse theorists, although discourses use signs to designate things, they are: “irreducible to the language … and to 118 Ibid., pp. 20-21 119 Laclau and Mouffe cited in David Howarth, Discourse (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000), p.
104 120 Ibid.
121 David Howarth, „Discourse Theory‟ in David Marsh and Gerry Stoker (eds), Theory and Methods in Political Science (1st ed.) (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), pp. 115-133, p. 124 122 David Howarth, Yannis Stavrakakis, „Introducing Discourse Theory and Political Analysis‟ in David
Howarth, Aletta Norval, Yannis Stavrakakis (eds), Discourse Theory and Political Analysis (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 1-23, p. 9 47 speech” alone.123 Instead, post-structuralists are concerned with how regular bodies of ideas and concepts produce knowledge about the world. 124 Thus, in their interpretation, the term “discourse” becomes an all-encompassing concept, which uses language as the primary tool for its analysis but is not concerned with language per se. Instead, poststrucutralists are focused on the enabling/ disabling of specific conducts by the articulations that language makes possible. Importantly, due to the inherent instability of discourses and their political nature, pointed out above, there will always be competing discourses on one and the same sign. Following these post-structuralist ideas, for me the term discourse has a wide meaning and refers to structured systems of signs that create knowledge about the world. Therefore, for me discourses are formed not only by language but include a broader number of signs. Despite that, language has a primary position among other signs because ultimately it is by communicating through language that the meaning of the other signs becomes intelligible. This is why in this research I have focused on examining texts in a narrow depiction.
As I said above, the meaning of borders has been transformed during the process of European integration. This is expressed in the advance of new bordering practices, through discourses of inclusion and exclusion. Importantly, following the logic of post-structuralist discourse theorists, there are multiple ways in which the relationship between the new forms of inclusion and exclusion in the Union have been articulated. Furthermore, given the argument about the primacy of politics, the various agents involved in formulating the different discourses on EU borders, will all try to promote their own preferred vision. At any given point in time, however, the ways in which inclusion/ exclusion issues in the Union are resolved, is some kind of mixture between the articulations advanced by the various agents involved. This is due to the fact that, as Berger and Luckman argue, no one is influential enough to decide singlehandedly on the matter.125 This interaction between the agents involved in EU border transformations is expressed in the various relevant discourses.
One such discourse is that of the Commission. Following Berger and Luckman‟s argument and the argument about intertextuality, it is bound to reflect the on-going 123 Michel Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2006), p. 54 124 David Howarth, „Discourse Theory‟ in David Marsh and Gerry Stoker (eds), Theory and Methods in Political Science (1st ed.) (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995), pp. 115-133, p. 116 125 See p. 44 above 48 struggles between the actors involved on how the inclusion/ exclusion issues in the EU should be settled. Therefore, on questions of further integration and opening up spaces within the EU, the Commission displays an overriding tendency to act cohesively in support of them for reasons that I explained above. Nevertheless, in its discourse other influences and opinions will be expressed as well. Because of that, overall, I do not regard the Commission discourse as belonging to a particular actor or institution. The only sense in which this discourse can be seen as the Commission‟s is because the overwhelming majority of the documents that I study, as I explain in section 2.4.2.
below, are issued by the Commission. Hence, I do not assume that there is a single actor behind this discourse. It expresses a plurality of voices. Thus, the bordering practices articulated in the Commission discourse will inevitably be affected by the enunciations on border matters of other interested parties. Moreover, because of the possibility to have various representations on the same issue, the discourses on borders advanced by different players can be expected to contain significant differences in their articulations.
This diversity of voices is an important reason why discourses are ridden by contradictions. As the analysis in the empirical chapters shows, Commission discourse is no exception, which in turn creates ambiguities in the ways it configures EU borders.