This paper aims to outline the conceptual grounding and methodological feasibility of analyzing EU law against the concepts of political culture underlying it. More precisely, it aims to point out what it signifies to study EU law as an expression of meaningful forms of political existence rather only as an instantiation of first order principles or a mere epiphenomenon of commodified relations of production. This is not to say EU law cannot be measured against an idealist version of itself or against the material reality that it is based on. It is simply to clarify that there is more to EU law, in that it reflects as well as constitutes a system of meaning by which EU citizens make, or can make, sense of their lived political reality.
This paper argues that the notion of constitutional time is crucial to a critical analysis of the relationship between the rule of law and democracy in the EU. Competing conceptions of constitutionalism beyond the State are analysed here through the lens of different configurations of time. In fact, as observed by Waldron, the rule of law in itself is inevitably a contested concept and many of its weaknesses resurface in any study of the rule of law beyond the State. It is by assessing the weight that the main approaches confer upon the iterative quality of democracy that it is possible to identify the limits, contradictions and ambitious promises of any effort to transpose the rule of law beyond its State-sovereigntist confines.
At a time when the project of integrating European states through the rule of law is faltering, this paper aims to recover new theoretical resources for invigorating law’s philosophical grounding and its institutional resilience. Complementing scholarship that has turned to different substantive narratives of European integration, the paper considers narrative thinking itself as a mode of post-national social integration, one for which law is essential. Narrative thought—precisely through the lawyerly tool of analogical reasoning—‘slows’ the experience of political time, training one to acknowledge the interdependence of one’s political life among that of others. Drawing on critical legal studies and law and literature, this paper suggests a theoretical framework for more sensitive European jurisprudential practice, at once able to remedy tendencies toward fragmentation, and to retain the EU’s heterarchical character; in short, to think what it means ‘to be together’ differently.