News Release

European Objects: The Troubled Dreams of Harmonization by Brice Laurent, now available from the MIT Press

Book Announcement

The MIT Press

Interventions based on objects, Brice Laurent argues in his book European Objects (on sale February 2, 2022 from the MIT Press), have become a dominant path for European policy-making. Laurent, a researcher at Mines ParisTech, highlights how these interventions—including chemicals, financial products, and consumer goods—offer a path to rethink European integration.

Laurent analyzes the political consequences of these interventions and their democratization. He uses the term “European objects” to describe technical entities that are regulated—and thereby transformed—by European policies. To uncover the bureaucratic and regulatory intricacies of European governance, Laurent focuses on a series of these objects, including food products, chemicals, financial products, consumer goods, drinking water, and occupational environments. Laurent argues that taking European objects seriously offers a way to rephrase the dreams of harmonization and, eventually, rethink the constitutional strength of European integration.

“The true goal of European integration is the creation of European objects,” said Javier Lezaun, Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. “Nothing is more important, or difficult. Laurent's astute book lifts the veil on the forms of regulatory dexterity that underpin these amazing acts of fabrication.”

Laurent doesn't just clarify how European regulation works, but also explores ways to realize long-term objectives for European integration, such as a harmonized market or an objective expertise. Regulation is best understood as “regulatory machinery” bringing together various types of legal constraints, material interventions on objects, and the imagining of desirable futures. Analyzing European objects enables Laurent to explore what regulation has become after years of evolution have made it a central component of the European policy world. He offers practical illustrations of how the regulatory machinery functions today.

“Many of the ideas developed in this book originate from conversations I had when presenting my work on European objects to academic audiences in Europe and in the United States,” Laurent writes in European Objects. “If the dreams of disentanglement and objectivity tend to situate objects beyond the perimeter of political deliberation, other approaches to European objects make them explicit political entities. How to undertake a constitutional reflection from the latter is a challenge that deserves to be met.”

If Europe succeeds at reinventing the terms of its legitimacy with objects that matter for the European publics, it will provide a telling demonstration that the opposition of expertise and populism is not the unavoidable fate of liberal democracies.


About the author: Brice Laurent is a researcher at Mines ParisTech, Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation.

Learn more about the book on the MIT Press website:

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