The Project

Forms of Life and Legal Integration in Europe

Forms of Life and Legal Integration in Europe (FOLIE) is a research project which started in 2016 and aims at providing a richer understanding and a deeper critique of the European Union project, by exploring the relationship between forms of life and EU law. 

FOLIE’s objective is to tackle the role of European Union law in social relations and practices pertaining to migration, families, markets, territory, nations and other such formations of social life in Europe. To this end, FOLIE uses the conceptual metaphor “forms of life” to capture the way in which EU law features amongst a diversity of social practices that delineate and give form to lives in Europe. 


The main question that animates the concept of forms of life is how lives are lived, especially how different continuous social practices interrelate and give meaning to our lives. 

FOLIE embraces the idea that European Union law is more than a means to achieve the European Union’s institutional projects. Therefore, within FOLIE, the European Union’s legal system is not simply studied as a set of institutional interactions and functional regulation. Instead, the European Union’s legal order is also understood as a way to structure and generate modes of existence and coexistence between individuals and among social groups. Forms of life is a way to depart, in the present crisis context, from traditionally received institutional understandings of the European Union project so as to open up an existential perspective. It is a way to reflect on Europe as sets of individual dispositions, social relationships, sentiments and beliefs, even if inchoate, imperfect, alienating.

Thus the main impetus of this project has been the felt need to deepen the understanding of the limits and possibilities of European Union law in a context of multiple crises and fragmentation in the EU.  

The ultimate objective of FOLIE is to draw a rich picture of Existential Europe and its Laws and to be an important part of the conversation on the current state of Europe. It seeks to develop critical and innovative approaches to European Union law and the European Union in general, as well as to reflect on its transformations and its future.

To explore these broad questions, this research aims to combine legal analysis with the analytical framework of ‘forms of life.’ The latter is a conceptual metaphor developed most prominently in social philosophy and anthropology as a way of describing how bundles of social practices, including law, forms our way of existing and create patterns of social interactions. Social practices that are nested together shape the specificity of certain lives, and in this sense, could be understood as constituting different forms of life. 

FOLIE provides options in terms of entry points for further inquiry. One could start with a figure that features explicitly in the EU legal material such as ‘worker’, ‘consumer’, ‘third-country national’ etc. One could also start with the idea of a form of life, constituted by an interrelated ensemble of social practices, personal attachments, identities and inter alia reproduced, explicitly or implicitly, in the EU legal arrangements. The nationalist would be one example of the latter. 

Our research group focuses on a variety of topics, such as nationalism, migration, democracy, the market, family life, crime and the digitalization of social lives. Currently the working titles within the FOLIE research team are Migrant Life Spaces, The Nationalist Form of Life, European Law and Forms of the Legal Profession and The EU Forms of Family Life.

By seeking to unravel the relationship between forms of life and legal arrangements, FOLIE is interested in the variety of ways in which European Union law relates to the lived life. FOLIE aims to disclose the forms of individual agency, the conceptions of society and the political theories enshrined in the operation of EU law as it unfolds at different levels (case-law, legislation, soft law, implementing practices etc.) 

FOLIE is a critical analytical exercise and is related to the work of writers such as Etienne Balibar, Axel Honneth, Rahel Jaeggi, Marielle Macé and Paolo Virno who examine the social practices that constitute forms of life – legal, linguistic, political, institutional and cultural – and show avenues for a deeper critique of forms of life.  

FOLIE approaches EU law with a critical mind-set and ultimately with the conviction that the analysis of EU law needs to account for the way in which it relates to the social condition in Europe. 


The project has been funded by COMUE Université Sorbonne Paris Cité.

Related to the Project 

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