Laying claim to the academic field: The European Research Council and the European project

Vincent Gengnagel

The European Union wants the “European Research Area” to become a process with its own competitive dynamics between national academic traditions and the global hegemony of US research. At first glance, such a Europeanization of Higher Education is vertically posited by the EU-Research Framework Programmes. In addition and beyond that, the European Research Council (ERC) establishes a genuinely European academic logic fueled by strategies aimed at scientific autonomy. It does so by creating competition in accordance with meritocratic rules of academic legitimacy. As a result, both governance-oriented and critical idealist elites actively relate to the ERC as a European institution and bestow it with the ability of consecrating academic excellence. As a consequence, they contribute to the discursive construction of a European order characterized by a symbolic and material integration of elites, the opening up of national fields and the primacy of economic competition.





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