Chapter 1 concluded that it is important to be sensitive to social and historical context when analysing the EU. This is not only about taking history seriously. More profoundly, it concerns the philosophical issue of what should be the starting point of analysis. According to critical theory, that cannot be some ahistorical myth about universal human ‘nature’, whether Smithian or Hobbesian. Social developments are not adequately captured when we see history merely in ‘whiggish’ terms as movement (or lack thereof) towards the ideals of this or that myth. What human nature is and might become is itself inseparable from history and particular social relations as emerged through real historical developments. As Marx put it, ‘man [sic] is not an abstract being squatted outside the world. Man [sic] is the human world, the state, society’ (1843: p. 131). This does not mean that social development should be reduced to a random flow of events. History is not just, as Arnold Toynbee (1957) put it, one damned thing happening after another. It is because human practices (ranging from mundane everyday routines, to business cycles, to foreign policy in hegemonic epochs) tend to repeat themselves within certain time frames that social science is possible in the first place. It is these repetitions that create the regularities that social science can study. But repetitions and regularities do not last forever. Sometimes big events become decisive in social developments – think of the significance of the storming of the Bastille or the Winter Palace as turning points in the French Revolution and Russian Revolution, respectively.
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