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7 - Social mechanisms and regional cooperation: are Europe and the EU really all that different?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2009

Jeffrey T. Checkel
Affiliation:
Professor of Political Science University of Oslo
Amitav Acharya
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Alastair Iain Johnston
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
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Summary

Introduction

Many analysts would characterize the European Union (EU) as a unique case among the panoply of regional organizations, with a level of cooperation that is wider and deeper than elsewhere. Moreover, recent years have witnessed a seeming acceleration of the Union's uniqueness. A common currency has been successfully introduced, a constitutional convention held, and a (supranational) constitution is now up for adoption. In social science terms, it would seem that actors have undertaken major adjustments in favor of group norms through the internalization of shared preferences and normative understandings.

The key word in that last sentence is “seem,” for there is broad disagreement across the EU literature on this basic issue. In part, this is simply a function of analysts employing different social-theoretic toolkits (contractionalist-rationalist versus sociological) to structure their studies. However, equally important is a state of affairs where normative claim-making and abstract theorizing have outrun carefully designed and methodologically sound empirical studies.

To be fair to EU scholars, their object of study is extraordinarily complex and is a moving target. The degree of cooperation varies tremendously depending upon the institution (the supranational Commission versus the intergovernmental Council, say) or policy area studied. Moreover, EU institutions have evolved significantly over the past half century, in directions often at variance with the original desires of the member states.

Type
Chapter
Information
Crafting Cooperation
Regional International Institutions in Comparative Perspective
, pp. 221 - 243
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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