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Authoritarian Liberalism - EU Law and the Critique of Capitalism Webinar

5:30pm - 7:00pm / Thursday 18th March 2021
Type: Webinar / Category: Research
  • Admission: Free event, please register for zoom details.
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This seminar series draws together a range of scholars engaged in critical analysis of EU law. It focuses on critical political economy approaches to the EU, recognising that such inter-disciplinarity is necessary to understand the intersections between law, politics, and economy. The speakers in the series engage with a wide range of critical theory and political economy (Marx, Polanyi, Fraser, Streeck, Brown etc.).

The series takes inspiration from the growth in political economy approaches beyond EU scholarship. From the “turn to political economy” in international law to the growing LPE movement in the USA, such approaches are inspiring a new group of active critical scholars. This seminar series aims to serve as a springboard for a new network of critical and radical scholars seeking to challenge the orthodoxies of EU scholarship.

Please see the below details for the third participant of the series;

Authoritarian Liberalism - EU Law and the Critique of Capitalism Webinar

Michael Wilkinson is an Associate Professor of Law at LSE, studied at University College London, the College of Europe, Bruges, and completed a PhD at the European University Institute, Florence. Prior to taking up his post at LSE in 2007, Mike was lecturer at Manchester University, EU-US Fulbright Research Fellow at Columbia and NYU and was called to the Bar (Lincoln’s Inn) in 2000. He has also taught at Cornell University as adjunct professor of law and been a visiting professor at Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II), National University of Singapore (NUS) and Keio University Tokyo.


This title recounts the transformation of Europe from the post-war era until the Euro-crisis, using the tools of constitutional analysis and critical theory. The central claim is twofold: Europe has been gradually reconstituted in a manner that combines political authoritarianism with economic liberalism and that this order is now in a critical condition.

Authoritarian liberalism is constructed supranationally, through a taming of inter-state relations in the project of European integration; at the domestic level, through the depoliticization of state-society relations; and socially, through the emergence of a new constitutional imaginary based on liberal individualism. In the language of constitutional theory, this transformation can be captured by the substitution of supranationalism for internationalism, technocracy for democracy, and economic for political freedom. Sovereignty is restrained, democracy curtailed, and class struggle repressed.

This constitutional trajectory takes time to unfold and develop and it presents continuities and discontinuities. On the one hand, authoritarian liberalism is deepened by the neoliberalism of the Maastricht era and the creation of Economic and Monetary Union. On the other hand, counter-movements then also begin to emerge, geopolitically, in the return of the German question, domestically, in the challenges to the EU presented by constitutional courts, and informally, in the rise of anti-systemic political parties and movements. Sovereignty, democracy, and political freedom resurface, but are then more actively suppressed through the harsher authoritarian liberalism of the Euro-crisis phase.

This leads now to an impasse. Anti-systemic politics return but remain uneasily within the EU, suggesting authoritarian liberalism has reached its limits if just about managing to maintain constitutional order. As yet, there has been no definitive rupture, with the possible exception of Brexit."