Social identity perspectives on European integration : a comparative study of national and European identity construction in Britain and Italy.
Taking a comparative perspective, the current research examines national and European identities in Britain and Italy, using a multi-methodological approach. The aims of the research are twofold: firstly, to examine current limitations with psychological theorising on social identity, and secondly, to enhance social psychological knowledge of European integration and its effects upon national and European identities. The theoretical perspective adopted is a hybrid synthesis of social identity (Tajfel, 1974; Turner, 1987) and social representations (Moscovici, 1984) approaches. Evidence for a European identity amongst British respondents and interviewees proved to be minimal: few felt any sense of European pride, and most construed European integration in instrumental terms. Italian constructions of European identity were more robust than those of the British, and consisted of both instrumental and symbolic attachments to the European ideal. Some of the social psychological bases for such cross-national differences are explored, and the prospects for the development of a European identity examined. Applying social identity theory to questions of national and European identity construction, raises questions about the current applicability of the paradigm to large-scale social categories of this type. The social representational context of intergroup relations has often been ignored, and social influence processes in large-scale entities seem more complex than previously assumed. It becomes apparent that issues of key conceptual importance to the social identity and self-categorisation paradigms are in need of urgent clarification. These include: the differences between face-to-face groups and abstract social categories; the adequacy of motivational constructs within the paradigm; and the role of the wider ideological milieu in which identity construction takes place. Along with a discussion of these issues, some of the key features of social identity construction in large-scale social categories and groups are examined, and ways in which the social identity and social representations paradigms might be reconciled explored.