Popular subjectivity in Latvian politics: national identity, EU membership and the voice of 'the people'
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The thesis deals with the issue of popular political subjectivity in the context of attitudes towards the European Union. In it its focus is Latvia where the public is more distanced and skeptic towards the EU membership than the political class. I argue that in order to explain this difference it is necessary to examine the discursive situating of the main subject of democratic politics – ‘the people’. Drawing on post-foundationalist analysis I show that in Latvia ‘the people’ are cemented as the founding power but not constructed as an active subject of established power. This in turn blocks the constitutive role of politics as any articulation of identity is assigned to only the politicians not the people. The unattainable wish that require for politicians to create an ‘ideal state’ results in constant disappointment with the actual political process. The barring of ‘the people’ from politics consequently impacts the perception of the European Union in regard to which ‘the people’ are constructed to have no agency while suspicion towards the actions of the politicians remains strong. Based on post-structuralist research design, the argument is established by two-fold analysis: the first part genealogically discusses the conceptual history of the categories of ‘the people’ and ‘the state’ in Latvia, and the second part provides an empirical analysis of the contemporary public debate on the Latvia’s presidency in the EU Council. Thus, the implications of the discursive constellation of Latvian popular subjectivity that is mapped out in the genealogical part are explored in regard to the Latvia’s EU membership. The thesis gives an original standpoint to continuous debate about the EU’s democratic deficit by highlighting post-foundationalist interpretation of popular politics as well as sheds new light on significance of the categories of the ‘nation-state’ in national political processes.