Institutionalism and European Integration
Mark A. Pollack. “Institutionalism and European Integration,” in Antje Wiener, Tanja Börzel, and Thomas Risse, European Integration Theory, 3rd edition (New York: Oxford University Press, February 2019 Forthcoming).
34 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2018
Date Written: July 11, 2018
The European Union (EU) is without question the most densely institutionalized international organization in the world. Small wonder, then, that the body of literature known under the rubric of “the new institutionalism” has been applied with increasing frequency and success to the study of the Union as a polity and to European integration as a process. This paper examines rational choice and historical institutionalism and their contributions to EU studies, in five parts. Following a brief introduction, Part 2 traces the origins of rational choice and historical institutionalism, both of which explore the role of institutions in political life, albeit with different emphases. Rational choice institutionalism explores how rational actors design political institutions to maximize their utility, and how those institutions subsequently shape and constrain decision-making in domestic and international politics. Historical institutionalists share this interest, but also explore how institutions develop over time, and how early institutional choices structure their subsequent, path-dependent development. In Part 3, we turn to the EU, exploring the ways in which scholars have drawn on institutionalist theories to understand and explain the legislative, executive, and judicial politics of the EU, as well as the development of EU institutions and policies over time. Part 4 applies institutionalist theory to the task of explaining the origins of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis as well as the EU’s response. Historical institutionalist theory, I suggest, generates important insights into the problematic design of the original Maastricht EMU provisions, as well as the EU’s incremental, path-dependent response, and the suboptimal outcome of the crisis. In Part 5, I conclude by suggesting that institutionalist theories offer a variety of valuable insights into the design, effects, and development of EU institutions, while at the same time remaining compatible with other theoretical approaches in the EU scholar’s toolkit.
Keywords: European Union, European integration, rational choice, historical institutionalism, financial crisis
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