A European Half-Life? A Retrospective on Joseph Weiler's 'The Transformation of Europe'

Research output: Working paper


Joseph Weiler’s 1991 article, The Transformation of Europe (TOE), was undoubtedly a landmark in European legal scholarship, but it also marked a watershed in its author’s own approach to the European project. European legal scholarship was never the same after TOE, but nor was Joseph Weiler’s contribution to that body of scholarship. In some ways, a shift in perspective is to be expected. TOE was an agenda-reshaping piece, and it is only natural that its author should follow the new agenda that he did so much to set. That is one part of the story. However, I believe that it is also the case that the author gradually came to understand the new agenda to be less relevant, or less ‘actionable’ than previously he had, and in any case less central, either because the world had simply moved on yet again in new and unpredictable ways, or, perhaps, because the agenda had never been as open as he once believed. In this retrospective comment, I explore both parts of the story. I examine what they tell us about the evolving character of supranational Europe as a political project and also as a field of inquiry, and how this movement is both reflected in and touched by the thought of one of the leading jurists of the age. In particular, I examine Weiler's post-TOE thesis of political Messianism as a way of accounting for both the early success and the recent loss of momentum of the EU. And in introducing the metaphor of the 'half-life' as the characteristic of an entity in irreversible decline, I address the following issues: whether and to what extent Weilers' views on the trajectory of Supranational Europe are consistent with such a metaphorical depiction; precisely what such a depiction entails in terms of the EU's prognosis; and how this approach might be challenged.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh, School of Law, Working Papers
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2013

Publication series

NameEuropa Series Working Paper


  • Weiler
  • Suprantionalism
  • EU
  • Peace
  • Prosperity
  • Messianism
  • Half-life
  • Community


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