We argued that the European Union can be seen as legal and regulatory polity, that relies extensively on external inputs, mainly provided by TNCs and business associations and by single-interest representation groups. Thus the European Union is the facilitator of the transfer of national policy making to those actors with privileged access to its institutions, while keeping labour based on a weak national basis.
The Single European Act and European Monetary Union, first intended as an emulation of the large US internal market, soon became one of the main instruments in furthering the establishment of the Empire without Emperor systemic cycle of accumulation of capital in Europe. They lead to a decline of provision of welfare and to reduction of social rights in a way that is democratically not accountable because determined by the independent European Central Bank, and it furthers the internalisation of the core‑periphery structure in Europe.
We have seen that enlargement of the European Union to the Central and Eastern European ex-communist countries is likely to make them a semi-periphery within the European Union. At the same time, this will exert downward pressure on wages and social regulation in the Western member states.
A system of multilevel governance is emerging in Europe, with overlapping and ill‑defined spheres of competence and of allegiance by different actors. Nation-states remain important actors, but they are joined by sub-national, supra-national (such as the European Union), and non-national (such as TNCs) ones. This complex polity with these characteristics is well adapted to the Empire without Emperor hegemony: it is highly flexible; it is delocalised and diffuse but can also claim tight connections to particular loci; and it sustains and promotes the coexistence of multiple identities.
Antisystemic movements have changed their nature. They no longer base their claims on universal constructs such as class solidarity, instead they use fragmentation to claim rights for single-interest groups. Multiple membership of single-interest groups leads to the concept of the ‘segmented citizen’ that can claim rights at different levels. The membership of these new antisystemic movements is made of the new non-geographic core of ‘knows’, thereby actively participating in the exclusion of the non-geographic periphery of ‘know-nots’.
The European society becomes split into two tiers, one composed by the new core of ‘knows’ as well as by what is left of the old geographic core, the other composed by the new non-geographic periphery of ‘know-nots’. The all-inclusive, nation-state based, citizenship is replaced by a fragmented citizenship which only the first tier will enjoy, based on participation in the processes of governance, that are no longer exclusively the concern of governments.
The nation-state thus becomes the fighting ground for the new antisystemic movements. The ‘fragmented citizens’ of the Empire without Emperor hegemony will benefit from the new systemic cycle of accumulation of capital after an initial struggle and provide the state with legitimacy through their support.
The exclusive, self-sufficient, national culture no longer mobilises citizens into solidarity and common identification. While the appeal to the nation does not disappear in the Empire without Emperor hegemony, it loses importance relatively to local and regional cultural traditions. This engenders new nationalisms, that are not, however, expansionist as in the nineteenth century, but defensive.
Non-violent nationalisms do not threaten European integration under the aegis of the European Union. Violent nationalisms such as in Yugoslavia do threaten the European system, but the structures to control such threats are already in place. This is based on prevention of conflicts through a long-term economic policy by the European Union on one hand, and on local containment of conflicts by military means when prevention fails on the other hand, mostly carried out by NATO.