The Strangeness of Europe

Chris Rumford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years there has been encouragement for sociological work which dovetails with the existing agendas developed by scholars of European Union (EU) integration; the idea of ‘mainstreaming EU sociology’. This paper pursues a different line of enquiry: developing an account of transformation based on a theory of society. The key to this, it is suggested, is the idea of ‘strangeness’ as the basis for a new framework of theory designed to apprehend the dynamics of European society and societal transformations. Strangeness is a form of social disorientation resulting from the loss of social signposting and an awareness that community is not necessarily built from the building blocks of physical contiguity. Strangeness captures the idea that social life can be disorienting and ‘we-ness’ problematic. The paper deals with five dimensions of Europe’s strangeness: that we are not sure who we are; the loss of familiar reference points; the phenomena of ‘disconnected contiguity’ and ‘generalised milieu’, and the existence of multiple coexisting Europes, the last of these being most fully developed account. The paper explores how this multiplicity helps us locate the dynamics of change in contemporary Europe. It is argued that this focus on the dynamics of multiplicity has the potential to take us beyond an understanding of Europe framed in terms of a plurality of identities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-522
Number of pages19
JournalComparative European Politics
Issue number4
Early online date16 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016

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