Imagining the Future in the Face of Crisis: The European Union and Its Struggle to Make Sense of an Uncertain Economic Future

Lisa Suckert

Images of a common and therefore bright economic future have been one of the major drivers of European integration. However, with the current crisis and its devastating consequences, this future is increasingly disputed. Based on a quantitative discourse analysis (lexicometry) of National Reform Programs, the project maps how the future is addressed by the member states in their communications with the EU. It analyzes whether the economic crisis has substantially changed the way Europe views its economic future, whether time horizons, topics, or sentiments towards the future have been impacted. Comparing imaginaries of the future originating from different countries and different points in time, the analysis shows whether the crisis has led the way for divergence or convergence within the EU. It clarifies whether the situation of crisis has fostered new alternative scenarios or perpetuated a hegemonic consensus. The project is located at the intersection of economic sociology and political economy. It helps to explain the current state of the European Union and assess the potential for alternative economic futures. Based on a field theoretical perspective, the analysis provides conceptual insights into how imaginaries of the future are contested and how discursive arenas are affected in the face of crisis. The project is associated with the DFG-financed research network "Political Sociology of Transnational Fields."

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