The chess game of the European demos: building Europe with an indirect strategy of simultaneous games (April 2020)

The case of Europe/ European Union

Chess-playing: a ritual that makes one think, and that is based as much on the obsession with winning as on the desire to play and the experience of playing. In simultaneous games of chess, one player, a master, faces up to thirty opponents and spends his time passing from one table to the next. He challenges them and teaches them. Now let us imagine double that number or many more players and observers, who discuss and take their own risks by moving a piece here or there, and who communicate among themselves all the time. And that, in the end, they come together and reassemble as a few collective agents who share the experience of playing and respecting the rules, and who continue playing.

By applying this metaphor to the European public space (and something analogous to that of Spain), we can imagine it as a scenario of multiple games: the game of choosing governments, at one level or another, of deciding policies of all kinds, of comparing or sharing different symbolisms, etc. In order to keep it simple, I propose that we group them together and look closely at the following: firstly, games of representation, in which we face the democratic dilemma whereby democracy means either the power (cratos) of the demos, or power over the demos on the part of their representatives, namely, the political class. The latter is as likely to make an effort to promote democracy, compensating for the limitations of society’s deliberations and its civic participation (Achen and Bartels, 2016) as it is to weaken it, marginalising the voice of common sense and the sense of the common good of ordinary people. Secondly, games of substantive policies, especially those of an economic and social nature, which, if they achieve a sufficient level of success, provide the customary bases for the substantive legitimacy attributed to democracies. Thirdly, games relative to the forms of politics, whose role is key to resolving that dilemma of democracy as well as to ensuring its substantive legitimacy.