Seminar Tezcan: Autopoiesis in the EU

Autopoiesis in the EU: ‘Governance by committee’ 

 Mehmet Y. Tezcan,

Institute for European Studies, VUB



Autopoiesis is by now a well-established scientific principle. It refers to the ability of a living organism to produce and maintain itself. The founding fathers of the concept, Maturana and Varela identify autopoiesis as the distinctive feature of living beings and consider ‘the emergence of autopoietic unities on the face of the Earth’ as ‘a landmark in the history of our solar system’. A number of complexity scientists, e.g., Kauffman with his discussion of autocatalytic sets, discuss the issues of self-organization and emergence with clear reference to autopoiesis. Nevertheless, the concept of autopoiesis was seldom (and not necessarily correctly) applied in the study of society (see, e.g., the works of Niklas Luhmann and Bob Jessop). In any case, we still don’t know much if and how autopoiesis happens in the higher emergent systems than biological systems with irreducible properties, e.g., social and political economic systems. This presentation will be an attempt in this direction.   

There is now a consensus in the EU Studies literature and among the European public that the EU suffers from a ‘democratic deficit’. The latter in general refers to the present situation in which there is a perceived and frustrating lack of accessibility and accountability of the EU institutions to its citizens and substantial limits to the full representation of the citizens in the EU decision-making. This presentation is about the origin, nature and dynamics of the EU’s democratic deficit. It argues that the mechanism of social autopoiesis at work in the EU is responsible for this sorry state of things.