Eurostars and Eurocities: Towards a Sociology of Free Moving Professionals in Western Europe (Working Paper #71)

Adrian Favell, University of California – Los Angeles

Abstract: Despite an economic union premised on free movement across Europe, population statistics consistently show that a very low percentage of Western Europeans migrate and settle permanently in other European countries. Middle class Europeans show a remarkable propensity to stay put in their native countries. One can only conclude that the European economic and social system functions in ways that scarcely resemble its founding principle of the free movement of peoples. This presentation reports on qualitative research in Brussels and Amsterdam which has sought to understand the choices, career trajectories, and personal problems faced by professionals who have chosen the path of free movement within Europe. The study reveals the deep-seated national organization of life in even the most internationalized-or Europeanized-of cities, particularly concerning housing, child education, and political participation. Favell focuses on the difficult struggle for “quality life” that is and always has given the advantage to a rooted “bourgeois” conception of accumulation and social power. In a Europe where the declining welfare state and the all-powerful international economic system would seem to be overwhelming the nation-state, Favell suggests that these hidden barriers to free movement in Europe lie at the heart of the resilience of the national as the dominant form of social organization on the continent.

Working Paper #71»