Post-nationalism as anti-reification: The European polity in time

When Hannah Arendt reflected in 1954 on Europe’s future, she feared the European project might be tempted to create an ‘other’ against which to define its identity, resulting in false political closure, an exclusionary nationalism in new guise. Drawing on critical theory, this paper analyzes Arendt’s warning as a problem familiar to modernity: reification—in which socio-historical relationships are misattributed as timeless relations among things. Centering reification yields two arguments to sustain European law’s post-national ambitions. First, I show that existing principles of European jurisprudence (teleological interpretation, proportionality, non-discrimination) have counterproductive effects on EU politics insofar as each distinctly reifies the social-historical controversies addressed by adjudication. Second, I elaborate a corrective principle of EU law (anti-reification), which promises a more socially-embedded and historically-sensitive account of legality and legitimacy.