Timo Miettinen

In this series, we introduce the researchers of the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives.

Timo Miettinen is the team leader of EuroStorie’s subproject 2, Discovering the Limits of Reason - Europe and the Crisis of Universalism, and a university researcher at the University of Helsinki. Miettinen is also the PI of the research project Between Law and Politics: Rethinking the Intellectual Foundations of the European Economic Constitution. His scholarly background lies in continental philosophy of the 20th century and his research interests encompass for example the development of liberalism, the intersections of philosophy and history as well as the relations between politics, economy and the law.

Miettinen started at the Centre for European Studies already in 2009, which makes him one of the most long-standing researchers of the institution. As most of his colleagues at the beginning were political scientists, he developed an interest in political philosophy, European integration, and contemporary European politics. In his PhD Miettinen studied the idea of Europe in Edmund Husserl’s (1859–1938) philosophy, and argued for a more dynamic and pluralistic understanding of European universalism.

In the past two years – and particularly in the context of Between Law and Politics project – Miettinen has studied the early history of European neoliberalism, particularly German ordoliberalism. His aim is to challenge the conception of neoliberalism as a political-administrative idea. Instead, he argues that what is central about neoliberalism is the changing of the internal rationality of liberalism as well as the reinterpretation of certain concepts, such as liberty, politics or the markets. According to him, the way in which liberalism was reformed during the interwar period, also had a significant effect on the economic policy practiced by the European Economic Community after the Second World War. By examining the origins of the economic policy and the monetary policy practiced in Europe, we can better understand the current Eurozone Crisis.

In EuroStorie Miettinen examines the crisis of reason, that is, the crisis of European rationality that erupted after the First World War. According to him, the crisis of reason can be understood in various different ways, but fundamentally, it concerns the crumbling of the idea that European rationality would be somewhat of a highest form of universal history and a central model of what reason is all about. He divides the crisis of reason into four different parts that are interlinked to each other: the crisis of universal history and the idea of progress, the crisis of law and community, the crisis of liberalism and the crisis of science and religion. Miettinen wishes to achieve a dynamic understanding of what was the relationship between the crisis of reason and the events of the concrete world.

During the interwar period, the truism of the leading position of European rationality that it had possessed from the beginning of the modern era became questionable. Thus, European reason began to appear only as one local form of reason among many others.  This was also partly caused by the idea that European reason had led into a very calculating and belligerent position, where reason came to produce such technological innovations, with which people could – and would – kill each other.

According to Miettinen, however, subproject 2 does not only examine the crisis of reason itself, but also, how the reason was reinterpreted after it.  By this he means that reason isn’t necessarily just a tool of control, calculation and governance, but it can also contain for example ethical or normative tasks: thus, reason could also be a source of the renewal of humanity or a critical ability, with which we could evaluate our own tradition and its presuppositions.

According to Miettinen, the grand vision of EuroStorie is to revise European Studies in two ways. Firstly, by not only concentrating on the time period after the Second World War, but also to the interwar period and secondly, by arguing that those processes and intellectual turns within the interwar period are significant as well when it comes to the European project today. EuroStorie will not only look at governance or institutions, but also the ideas behind them – for example, what the legitimacy of a political community is based on, what a political community is, what reason in politics is, and whteher the concept of reason includes either the idea that human is a self-seeking, calculating individuals or that we share the world with each other.

Miettinen argues that encounters with external factors has strongly shaped the European culture and identity. The aim of subproject 2 is to gain a new understanding of the pluralism on which the European history greatly rests upon, in contrast to the idea that there would be only one, joint culture and idea of Europe. Miettinen seeks to question the idea of European culture merely as a storage of certain values, ideas, norms, views and truths. Instead, he claims that culture is a dynamic phenomenon that is constantly undergoing a transformation and, which expressly develops in interaction with other cultures. It also contains an ideal of self-critique – that we constantly need to question our own tradition and past. This, according to him, is especially obvious when looking at the philosophical tradition of Europe. However, this is often overlooked in the identity discussions concerning modern Europe.

Miettinen states that by understanding this, we can achieve a significantly richer and more dynamic comprehension of Europe and European culture, which is why EuroStorie seeks to shake the prejudices concerning them. He says that Europe has possessed an ideological aspect according to which it and its reason have represented the crown of creation as well as the teleological end of historical progress, which in its turn has been used in order to justify a variety of violent practices and the spreading of its own values into other cultures. 

However, the concept of Europe can still be given a positive content too, says Miettinen. This can be achieved only through universalism’s demand and idea that no singular culture possesses the truth, but rather truth can only be found, when a culture becomes aware of its own boundaries and customs. The aim of EuroStorie is to produce knowledge and understanding of why have we ended up in this sort of situation and to explain, what Europe is about. If people come to understand the tradition of self-criticism of European culture and the fact that it has constantly been in touch with the outside world, perhaps we could also in some way be more proud of our own Europeanness, says Miettinen.  

You can find Timo Miettinen's latest publications in Tuhat.



Timo Miettinen's latest publications in Tuhat.