Chapter 2 Analyzing the EU


  • Understanding the EU involves making a decision on the type of questions you are interested in and the way in which you want to answer them. 
  •  The most important distinction between different approaches to the EU is between theories of integration and theories explaining EU politics. 
  •  Neo-functionalism, intergovernmentalism and postfunctionalism are the three major approaches in integration studies.  
  •  Intergovernmentalists claim that the EU is best seen and studied as a classic international organization, to which member states have delegated a limited number of tasks.  
  •  Neofunctionalists argue that the initial delegation of tasks to the supranational level has generated an integrative dynamic of its own, leading to spillover of tasks into other policy domains. 
  •  Postfunctionalists claim that a constraining dissensus has emerged amongst the publics in the EU member states, so that EU politics has increasingly become dependent on domestic political constellations.  
  • Theories of EU politics seek to understand the actual functioning of the EU as a political system, rather than explain how the EU came about in the first place. Multi-level governance and the comparative politics approach are the two major strands of research in this area. 
  • Multi-level governance scholars consider the EU to be a one-of-a-kind political system in which the old, hierarchical way of doing politics between member states has been replaced by a new, networked form of government where different levels of government (local, regional, national and supranational) have become mutually dependent for realizing their policy objectives. 
  • Comparative politics scholars try to understand the EU by asking the same type of questions they ask when examining nation-states. It is exactly by comparing the EU to national political systems that it becomes possible to find out how and why the EU operates differently compared to its member states. 

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Cambridge University Press