Edited by Franco Zappettini and Samuel Bennett
[Journal of Language and Politics 21:2] 2022
► pp. 370–389
Using the example of the European Union’s foundational myth that post-war cooperation led to peace, in this paper I attempt to develop both a theory of mythopoetic legitimation and an analytical framework for its analysis. I start from the position that mythopoesis is a form of legitimation through history or, more specifically, through selective narratives of history. I utilise Berger and Luckmann’s social constructivism to show that myths are deeply sedimented narratives that integrate existing (objectivated) phenomena into a cohesive story. I then propose a framework for critically analysing myths as legitimation strategies. After detailing the EU’s origins story, the remainder of the paper operationalises the framework by analysing how the EU’s foundational myth is used in three, very different contexts: Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, and a State of the Union address. In doing so, I argue that the EU has become a prisoner of the past it has mythologised.
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