The Role of Sustainability as Ideology in the Collaborative Governance of the European Union

Thomas Hoerber, Gabriel Weber, Ignazio Cabras


This paper explores and examines issues and challenges related to sustainability, analysing the concept as a possible new ideology at a local level and worldwide. More specifically, the paper assesses the influence of sustainability in Europe, where the concept is promoted by grassroots organizations such as Local Agenda 21 (LA21) forums; as well as large political institutions such as the European Union (EU). Using in-depth interviews with 27 experts, we have collected information about sustainability and its role in becoming an ideology with the power of forging and shaping the future of the EU. Findings suggest sustainability could be interpreted as a new and inclusive bottom-up ideology, conceptually different from others e.g. the Marxian meaning of ideology as hegemonic set of ideas proposed by the elite. Promoting sustainability is seen as a raison d’êtreof the EU. Drawing on our findings, we illustrate how EU policymakers can further promote sustainability, which may help to strenghten the EU and confronting EU’s internal threats such as Anti-EU, nationalist, and increasingly xenophobic sentiments.

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