Open Journal of Philosophy
2011. Vol.1, No.2, 90-101
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ojpp.2011.12015
The European Regional Integration in the IR Literature:
A Review of Scholarly Support and Opposition
Agnes Katalin Koos
Political Science Department, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.
Received September 29th, 2011; revised October 30th, 201 1 ; accepted Novemb e r 9th, 2011.
Most of what has been written on the ECSC/EEC/EC/EU, has not been done by international relations (IR) theo-
rists, but by comparativists, sociologists, historians, anthropologists, legal scholars, and many others. These
writings are in general classified as intergovernmentalist, federalist, and supranationalist (functionalist and neo-
functionalist) in most accounts of the theoretical perspectives on the EU (Webb 1983, Rosamond 2000). Wiener
and Diez 2004 add a rational choice institutional category, as well, as they think that the policy analysis within
the polity developed into an autonomous brand of literature. It is only Andrew Hurrell in his chapter in Fawcett
and Hurrell 1995, who makes an attempt to present the EU, as a regional integration, from the point of view of
diverse IR approaches. Drawing on his classification scheme, I conduct an inquiry of the IR theories about
European unification from the point of view of whether they allow for the iteration of the European experience
in other parts of the world or not. The basic conclusion is that almost all IR work on Europe falls in the inter-
governmentalist category, which tends to conceptualize the European Union as representing an n of 1. (Inter-
governmentalism is the choice of realism and neo-realism, English School, and neoliberal institutionalism.)
Within the liberal IR paradigm, there is a tension between law-focused and security-focused approaches, on the
one hand, and economic approaches, on the other. The first believe in the possibility of multiple integrations,
while the latter does not think that they are desirable. Critical theories are also hindered by divergent normative
commitments, though the class-based theor izing is very clear about pur suing the soc ial control of markets.
Keywords: Regional Integratio n, Federalism, Supranationalism , Intergovernmentalism
We are more and more Tuscans, Sicilians, Walloons and Welshmen,
and less and less Italians, Frenchmen and Englishmen, or in other
words we are becoming more and more Europeans.” (Quoted in
Keating 1989, p. 117)
Many scholars from many social disciplines have become
fascinated with Europe’s post-WWII evolution. Their amaze-
ment has already produced a library-lar ge literature, and an ever
increasing number of institutions, centers, publications, and
departments dedicated to European stud i e s .
In contrast, if we look for the institutional infrastructure of
regional integration studies, we are little likely to find anything
beyond the United Nations University’s Centre for Compara-
tive Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS).1
This imparity of institutionalized interest in the EU, on the
one hand, and in regional integration, on the other, aptly con-
textualizes the question raised by ECSA in 1997 (Caporaso et
al. 1997): “Does the European Union represent an n of 1?”
The answer involves more than purely methodological diffi-
culties for researchers trying to apply quantitative methods on n
= 1. If the European integration is a historically unique experi-
ence, it can be assumed to lead to one more state, even if a spe-
cial one, such as multicultural and peacefully created, in the
traditional world system of nation-states. Yet, if it is a specimen
of a process that can be repeated in East Asia, Africa, and South
America, for instance, then it is the herald of the demise of the
Westphalian state system. The most influent theories of the
international relations field, such as realism, the English School,
neoliberal institutionalism, and even brands of constructivism,
are so deeply rooted in the assumption that the Westphalian
state system is perennial, that a world composed of regional
polities would refer them into history.
No wonder that the IR field manifested the least interest in
and the least enthusiasm for the European project since its be-
Most of what has been written on the ECSC/EEC/EC/EU,
has not been done by IR theorists, but by comparativists, soci-
ologists, historians, anthropologists, legal scholars, and so on.
These writings are classified as intergovernmentalist, federalist,
and supranationalist (functionalist or neofunctionalist) in most
accounts of the theoretical perspectives on the EU (Webb 1983,
Rosemond 2000). One newer volume on the issue, Wiener and
Diez’s (2004) European Integration Theory: Past, Present and
Future, adds rational choice theory (RCT) institutionalism to
the list, because in their vision the theories dealing with policies
and politics have grown as important in “Europeanology” as the
theories dealing with the polity itself—or with the relationships
among the member states.
In these accounts the approach called intergovernmentalist
refers to the contribution of IR to the integration studies. Though
there has not been a tendency to outline the approaches along
disciplinary lines, in this case the paradigmatic boundary coin-
cides with the IR field. In the intergovernmentalist approach the
existence of separate sovereign states is encoded, with the cor-
responding skepticism about the outcome of the integration ef-
forts. The question of whether there is a not Euroskeptic IR
literature is very challenging, and little researched thus far.
Actually, it seems that the only author who ever wrote a re-
view on this issue is Andrew Hurrell. In his chapter in the 1995
volume Regionalism in World Politics: Regional Organization
and International Order (co-edited with Louise Fawcett), Hurrell
classifies the IR theoretical perspectives on the EU, as a re-
1One of the rare exceptions is the Center for Comparative Integration Stu-
dies located in Denmark, at Aalborg University.
A. K. KOOS 91
gional integration.2
Thus Hurrell thinks that 1) the European integration should
be studied as a case of regionalism; and that 2) different IR
theories have led to clearly distinguishable standpoints with
regard to the study of regional integrations. Writing in 1995, he
also noticed that work on regionalism was “relatively modest.”
I will extensively rely on the IR categories outlined by Hurrell,
such as neorealism, neo-liberal institutionalism, constructivism,
and domestic level theories.3 His work will serve as a kind of
Ariadne thread, but, on the one hand, I will add a few new
categories, and on the other, I make the reservation that the
neo-functionalist approach cannot be uncontestably included in
the IR literature. Though the functionalists made the most im-
portant prediction in the IR field for the last 70 years, function-
alism has never been an IR paradigm. Its whole outlook is so-
ciological. Mitrany and Deutsch successfully transplanted it in
the political science field, bringing about something that can be
taken for a holist alternative of the individualist liberal IR
thinking. Haas is generally considered a neo-functionalist, who
adopted a moderate stance on many issues dear to hard-core
functionalists, such as the importance of public opinion (and of
surveying it).
Notions of region, regionalism, and regionalization differ
across the theoretical approaches to be presented. As a general
feature, region has to be geographically demarcated, though the
EU, for instance, resists attempts to fix its territorial boundaries.
(And the ASEAN has also shown a growing pattern.) We may
distinguish between sub-national micro-regions, cross-border
regions, and regions above the nations-state, or macro-regions.
In this paper I will confine to this latter meaning. In general, it
is assumed that countries situated in the same geographical area
may come closer to each other in both “spontaneous” and “po-
litically driven” ways. “Spontaneously,” the population of the
respective countries increase their economic transactions with
each other. Together with cultural exchanges, overlapping
broadcasting, and tourism, the economic connectedness tends to
homogenize the material and spiritual cultures, life styles, and
mentalities. Actually, the phenomenon does not stop at the
frontiers of the regions: this is what on the global scale is re-
ferred to as globalization. Yet, geographical proximity ampli-
fies the spontaneous effects, and may trigger conscious political
action to foster them. In some accounts, “regionalization” is
reserved for the state-promoted integration only, in others,
“regionalization” may be either spontaneous or state-promoted,
and the term “regional integration” is used for the state pro-
moted version. This is how I will apply the terms, when not
explicitly referring to someone’s divergent usage of them.
One more clarification should be made before introducing
the authors. The same region may give rise to multiple regional
integrations. In Europe, the EU has received most of the lime-
light, but there is also a European Security Area, represented by
the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Holist Theories on the IR Realist Side
Hurrell labels his first large category “systemic theories,” in
the Waltzian sense. I believe that all systemic theories are holist,
but not all holist theories, in the epistemological sense, are sys-
temic theories in the Waltzian sense.4 Hurrell himself seems to
also have been at a disarray of whether neo-liberal institution-
alism is systemic enough to make the category of “systemic
theories,” or not, thus he shared Keohane’s contribution be-
tween this category and the next. I will confine this section to
realist authors, of whom Waltz, Walt, and Mearsheimer are
specifically mentioned by Hurrell. And, I include the English
School, particularly Hurrell himself.
Structural (Neo-)Realism
The Monnet-ian beginnings of the European integration are
older than the Waltzian neorealist school in IR. The first IR
realists commenting on the European Coal and Steel Commu-
nity, and on the European Communities, were not expressly
invoking the neo-realist theses, such as Grieco and Mearsheimer
did later. The most well-known Euroskeptic of the 1960s was
Stanley Hoffmann, whohoweveris generally mentioned as
the originator of the intergovernmentalist approach. Hoffmann
was a realist, but the intergovernmentalist analysis took on
some liberal traits later.
Hurrell does not think that in this area there were significant
differences between pre-Waltzian and Waltzian standpoints.
“Both classical realism and its more recent neo-realist variants
stress the importance of external configurations of power. For
the neo-realist, the politics of regionalism have much in com-
mon with the politics of alliance formation.” Or, in realism,
alliances are little more than cheap talk. There is nothing really
binding and nothing irreversible in them. For instance, in his
1988 paper, Grieco polemically refuses the possibility of coop-
eration among states, on grounds that their security concerns,
thus concerns with the relative gains, override the temptation of
absolute gains from a cooperation.
The moment when the neorealists dedicated a little more at-
tention to the European integration came in the early 1990s. In
a 1990 paper, Mearsheimer formulated the conclusions of the
end of the Cold War for Europe. Since realists held that the
European states were pushed into their “alliance” system by
bipolarity, Mearsheimer 1990 predicted the end and reversal of
the European developmen t s .5
This prediction did not materialize. After the Single Euro-
pean Act in 1986, the Community went on the sign the Maas-
tricht Treaty in 1992. In 1995, Grieco commented: “Now, from
the vantage point of the mid-1990s, it is clear that the EC will
not soon achieve the goals it set for itself in the Maastricht
Treaty (p. 22).”6 But the essence of this 1995 paper is to intro-
duce some amendments to the structural realist theory that can
explain the continuing integration. In a later paper, in 1996, the
sam e amendment was used for a more specific task of explaining
2And Hurrell has a more recent chapter in another book on the issue, in
Farrell et al. 2005.
3As a referenced guide, Hurrell deserves that his classification scheme be
resented before my alterations to it. He introduces three large categories
with their sub-species. It is not difficultto liken his scheme to that of the
realist Grieco (1990), who speaks about Realist, Neo-liberal institutionalist,
and Liberal brands of thinking within the IR field. Hurrell’s categories are:
(a) Systemic theories: 1. Neo-realism (Waltz, Walt, Mearsheimer) and 2.
Structural interdependence and globalization (Nye, Keohane, Sandholz &
Zysman). (b) Regionalism and interdependence: 1. Neo-functionalism (E.Haas
K.Deutsch, Weiler), 2. Neo-liberal institutionalism (Keohane, Hoffmann,
Moravcsik), and 3. Constructivism (Onuf, Adler, Wendt). (c) Domestic-
level theories: 1. Regionalism and state coherence (Charles Tripp), 2. Re-
gime type and democratization (Doyle, Maoz, Russett, Burley), and 3. Con-
vergence theories (when domestic policy preferences converge and states
“lock in” them, as in Majone) .
the European Monetary Union.
4Actually, Waltz’s system is a very special case, in no other science a group
formed by like u nits is studied a s a system in its own right.
5“[W]e should see the Europeans returning to their traditional concerns
about relati ve gains and becoming less able to cooperate.”
6Though in a footnote Grieco excuses his usage of “EC,” instead of “EU”
for the pre-Maastricht era of the polity, it sounds strange enough in a sen-
tence in future tense! And his 1996 paper still uses “EC.”
Grieco 1995 admits that “the Maastricht Treaty’s elements
regarding EMU do indeed pose a serious challenge to neo-rea-
list arguments about international institutions.” Thus he sets off
“to show how neo-realism might be adapted in the face of the
challenges raised by Maastricht in such a way as to respond to
these problems in a productive manner.” He presents a revised
neo-realist argument dubbed “voice opportunities” thesis based
on reasons of “secondary states” for cooperating with stronger
partners through international institutions. Grieco claims that
this argument is compatible with the hard core of the neo-realist
research programme and is rooted in the thinking of Morgen-
thau.7 The hypothesis is that
if states share a common interest and undertake negotia-
tions on rules constituting a collaborative arrangement, then
the weaker but still influential partners will seek to ensure that
the rules so constructed will provide sufficient opportunities for
them to voice their concerns and interests and thereby prevent
or at least ameliorate their domination by stronger partners.”
In the 1996 paper, this idea is concretized with France and
Italy, economically weaker, but politically significant, choosing
to cooperate with economically powerful Germany against
Japan and maybe USA. Security and relative gain concerns are
not mentioned, countries are supposed to pursue “mutual gain.”
The gains of the economically stronger partner are not detailed,
and there are no guidelines of when the stronger partner will
succumb to demands for institutionalization.
In the 1996 paper, Grieco is more tolerant toward non-syste-
mic approaches to the international affairs than he was in 1988.
He admits that unit-level analysts (such Sandholz and Zysman
1989), and functionalists (a composite category for “functional
institutionalist” Keohane and neofunctionalists Haas and Schmitter)
may also make valuable contributions to the study of the Euro-
pean integration. This paper of Grieco almost fits the descrip-
tion of Hurrell: “Neo-realism focuses attention both on power-
political pressures and on the dynamics of mercantilist eco-
nomic competition.”
Hurrell attributes lots of economic concerns to the neo-realist
description to the European integration, such as the belief that
“outside-in” economic pressures of mercantilist rivalry have
continued to influence the path of European integration. For
instance, that in the 1960s “de Gaulle placed great weight on
European cooperation, as a means of countering le défi ameri-
cain and later le défi japonais and so on. Yet, for hardcore neo-
realists, concerns with economy, with “low politics,” could not
compete with security reasons, they had, at maximum, some
added role after the application of the primary explanatory fac-
tor, the role of the hegemon. Finally, Hurrell formulates two
criticisms: “Neo-realism, however, says little about the charac-
ter of regional cooperation once established and the ways in
which the habits of sustained co-operation may involve institu-
tional structures very different from the traditional idea of coa-
lition. Neo-realism also says very little about the impact of
domestic factors.”
English School
Hadley Bull shares the basic vision of anarchy with Waltz,
but he takes more seriously the phenomenologically given fact
that states do cooperate. It seems that the English School’s
understanding that anarchy is not necessarily Hobbesian comes
from their larger emphasis on “low-level” interactions among
states, mainly economic transactions, but also social exchange
(migration, crossborder marriages and cultural contacts). And
they also show a little more empathy toward the behavior of
weak states, such as in Hurrell’s claim on regionalization: “···
many regionalist groupings are basically the natural response of
weak states trapped in the world of strong.” Neorealism ne-
glects lesser states, and Grieco’s amendment to the core doc-
trine targeted exactly this segment of “secondary state” behavior.
Yet, this idea of weak-state behavior has not gone farther
than a few empathetic references and has not crystallized in an
elaborated theory. In 2007, Hurrell admitted that:
“It has to be said that, as it developed, the English School
was not especially attentive to regional and area studies. The
emphasis was to be on the way in which things fit together, and
on the study of international relations as a holistic and distinc-
tive arena of social enquiry (p. 135).” Yet, in his account the
whole of the IR field neglected the regional issue, and failed to
integrate the expertise of area specialists. Hurrell thinks that
this flows from the logic of IR, geared toward explaining with
the global distribution of power, and more knowledge about
regional balances of power, and regional aspects of the neo-
mercantilist competition would be beneficial for the discipline.
In a paper published in 1996, Hurrell and Menon react to
Simon Hix’s 1994 proposal to study the EU as a polity, rather
than as a group of states.8 Hurrell and Menon reject the sugges-
tion, and intend to preserve the intergovernmental approach to
the study of the EU: “Our argument, however, is that bargain-
ing between states pervades the policy process in the EU and
that such bargaining is subject to distinctive constraints that
differ from those operating in ‘normal’ political systems.”
Yet, they emphasize their distance from the “old” exclusivist
intergovernmentalist approaches on grounds that not all state-
system centered perspectives are created equal. “It is not help-
ful to treat together older realist perspectives (such as Hoff-
mann writing in the 1960s) and the many recent varieties of
liberal intergovernmentalism or institutionalism. Both accept
that states are the central actors. Both believe that conflict,
co-operation and integration are determined by the perceived
interests of the major states. But realists and liberal institution-
alists differ fundamentally on their assessment of the chances of
sustained co-operation and on the role of Institutions. In par-
ticular, liberal intergovernmentalists have never viewed inte-
gration within the EC as strictly a zero-sum game.”
Hurrell and Menon’s arguments against the strictest neoreal-
ist accounts are rooted in observations of state behavior, such as
the possibility of sustained cooperation, the elasticity of the
perception of state interest (which makes bargaining possible,
an d may also involve issue linkages), multi-level and multi-play er
games, the erosion of the monolithic character of the state, and
“perhaps also ··· new forms of identity.” We may notice a shift
in the interpretation of the state system, as well. The economic
realm, mainly globalization and its impacts, is given more im-
portance as compared to purely power distribution concerns,
than by the neorealist accounts.
Of the co-authors of this paper, Menon seems to have gone
into the direction of institutionalism later, while Hurrell came
back to the problem of regionalization in 2007.
His main question is: “To what extent have these regional
factors become more firmly established as important elements
8Hix 1994 claimed that “The EU now represents ‘more than an” interna-
tional organization”’, and so ‘theories of international
olitics are of limited
use for studying the “internal” politics of the Community’.” This being the
case, the sa me th eoret ical ap p ro aches that ar e u sed to study nat ion al p oli tical
systems ma y p rofitably be applied to the study of the EU.
7“[T]he idea that institutionalization has served as a post-war strategy b
which France has sought to limit and channel German power was articulated
in early post-war realist thinking about European economic cooperation, that
is, in Hans Mor genthau’s disc ussion of the [ECSC & EC]”.
A. K. KOOS 93
of the architecture of world politics, and to what extent are we
living in an emerging multiregional system of international re-
And he basically answers that: “All regionalist arrangements
have to be understood in relation to systemic or ‘outside-in’
factors—even if the most important condition for regionalism
in a specific case is the relative weakness of such factors.”
The region may be conceptualized as “the most appropriate
and viable level to reconcile the changing and intensifying
pressures of global capitalist competition on the one hand with
the need for political regulation and management on the other.”
Yet, they have this value mainly for the “lesser states.” During
history, the behavior of lesser states has led to various interna-
tional, global and regional initiatives. No explicit rules have
been discovered in the behavior of these states, they may either
balance or bandwagon, define variously the regions, choose
diffe rent pa rtne rs and di ffere nt emphase s of i ntegra tion, such as
more economic or more security-driven. It is worth to study the
regional formations, as some may last. But all of the initiatives
are subjected to the toleration of the great powers. For instance,
the grand-scale Third World cooperation of the 1960s - 1970s,
during which regionalization was subordinated to globalism,
has eroded. Regionalism is easier tolerated by global power
structures, which may be an explanation for the upsurge in
regionalization in the 1990s. The success of the European inte-
gration has also invited emulation. But the degree of regionali-
zation varies widely across regions, and there is no guarantee
that any of them can repeat the European experience. Actually,
Hurrell explicitly rejects the claim that regions are the “harbin-
gers of change in the character of international society” on
grounds that previous rounds of regionalism have receded, and
because of “the strains besetting NAFTA, the fragility of Mer-
cosur, ASEAN’s difficulties in adjusting to a harsher regional
environment, and the extremely limited results of regionalism
in other parts of the world.” Pragmatic realists tend to believe
when they see. But when looking at a half-empty glass they
tend to call it empty.
A last turn of the realist holist side is its collusion with social
constructivism, as exemplified with the Copenhagen School.
Barry Buzan started its contribution to the realist/English School
literature by enlarging and dynamizing the notion of security
(1983). In his account, military security is not the only one kind
of security pursued by states, they are interested in political,
economic, societal and ecological security, as well. The process
of pursuing these goals is called “securitization.” In publica-
tions coauthored with social constructivist Ole Waever, Buzan
developed a comprehensive notion of societal security, while
also relativised these concerns, moved far away from unique
monolithic state security concepts, toward socially constructed
issues, threats, and enemies.
In sum, within the realist holist approach, each regional inte-
gration is an idiosyncratic outcome of global and regional
power distribution, and of general and specific economic chal-
lenges and pressures. In the case of the European integration,
the geopolitical framework was the collapse of colonial empires,
the rearrangement of the power rank-orders (with new powers
emerging), and some threat from the part of the Soviet Union,
counterbalanced by the US’s Cold War strategy that pushed
democracies in the same alliance system. There are no general
rules of regionalization, neither can we claim that there is a via-
ble general trend toward regionalization. All alliances are par-
ticular and reversible. The EU keeps being an n = 1.
Holist Theories with Liberal Accents9
This category is made of by four approaches, of which one is
not commonly considered part of the IR literature. Yet, it is
hard to speak about the field, and of its specific debates, with-
out mentioning such a salient theoretical standpoint, on the
basis of which the European integration got its start, and which
keeps being the (phenomenologically, at least) most adequate
description of what has happened in Europe.
Functionalism and Neo-Functionalism
Functionalism in political science is mainly associated with
the name of David Mitrany and Karl Deutsch, while its version
neofunctionalism can be exemplified with Ernst Haas and
Schmitter. Haas 1964 sums up the functionalist creed, and pre-
sents his own amendments to it. The functionalist theses perti-
nent to integration are: 0. The first mover in human affairs is
people’s desire for more welfare. 1. States are responsible for
assuring human fulfillment.10 2. The sphere of politics, focused
on power, should be separated from the technical sphere where
welfare issues are treated. 3. Expects that “science would push
back the boundary of power,” in the sense that science will be
able to show up increasingly more common interests, while
harmonizing the divergent ones, e.g. in disarmament issues. 4.
Peace is not static, keeping peoples apart, but active, a “social
peace,” on the basis of solved conflicts. 5. Human beings can
and do maintain multiple identities; new functions create new
loyalties. 6. Federalism may come in installments.11 7. Function
precedes form. 8. Functional spillovers (+spill-backs, spill-arounds)
are the mechanisms through which the integration processes
maintain and fuel further integration.
Haas adopts a critical stance toward some traits of classic
functionalism, such as its teleology (explanations with func-
tions, rather than with causes), and separation of power and
welfare, but he is critical against realism, as well, claiming that
the Realist system, based on balancing, has never existed. He
elaborates on possibilities of bringing about “beyond-state”
organizations that will effectively command people’s loyalties
instead of the nation-state. Personal political loyalties are the
result of satisfaction with the performance of an agency. A
gradual transfer of loyalties to international organizations per-
forming important functions is likely. And spillovers may also
work: integrative lessons learned in one functional context will
be applied in others, and learning may redefine earlier concept-
tions of self-interest.
Haas does not think expressly in terms of regional integra-
tions: in his 1964 book, he analyzes the activity of the Interna-
tional Labor Organization. But he generalizes to the possibili-
ties of international organizations of any kind.12 He thinks that
“there will be a continued drift toward supranationality,” but
not with planning (as Gunnar Myrdal imagined, for instance).
9Hurrell’s term for a similar category is “(b) Regionalism and interdepend-
10This collides with the realist claim that state behavior is not subject to
moral judgment. Also involves that when states cannot assure human fulfill-
ment within th eir competence, they are obliged to delegat e sovere ign ty t o oth er
11Mitrany is attributed the opinion that there won’t be need of accomplished
olitical union in Europe or in any region, the regional integrations won’t
lead to new “Westphalian” states.
12Haas 1958 defines integration as the process “whereby political actors in
several, distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expecta-
tions and political activities toward a new centre, whose institutions process
or demand jurisdiction over the pre-existing national states.” Haas 1976
defines integration as institutionalized procedures devised by governments
for coping with the condition of interdependence, where “coping” may take
In a contingent, ad hoc way, under the double influence of the
international systemic forces and the domestic forces. The sys-
temic forces include economic tensions, and the individual
societies do not develop independently of each other. In 1976,
following the Eurosklerosis of the 1970s, Haas rearticulated his
skeptical amendments to the enthusiastic classic functionalist
theory, but also made a convincing argument about the decision
styles within the EC, claiming that in the old issue areas the
integration has not been halted, let alone reversed.
In sum, neo-functionalism maintained the basic functionalist
thesis that the world is moving away from the anarchic state
system, towards various supranational institutions. Haas opened
much more room for contingence than the old functionalists. If
Mitrany or Deutsch can be credited with the belief the Euro-
pean experience is not unique, we may hesitate to accord the
same view to Haas. While he allows for the fact that there are
forces and potentialities to fuel integration everywhere, neo-
functionalism makes the actualization of these impulses depen-
dent on too many circumstances, and they may be even defeated
by “turbulences.” The more skeptic account seems to be related
to the fact that in the neorealist version, the integration is elite-
driven rather than really popular.
Neo-Liberal Institutionalism
The most influent and most seriously taken critique of neo-
rea lism within the mainstream IR literature reproaches the Walt-
zians’ neglect of economic interdependence (which later started
to be referred to as globalization). The increasing economic in-
terdependence affects state capacities, the real or perceived in-
terests of the states, and their incentives for interaction in the
international arena (such as cooperating, balancing, bandwagon-
ing, isolating themselves, or resorting to aggression). While it is
intuitively clear that interdependence creates the need for be-
yond-state action-both for regulating the moves of transna-
tional actors and for handling the transnational consequences of
modern production systemsthere is no straight causal line from
deepening globalization to the advancement of regional integra-
tions. For the supporters of international cooperation, the re-
gional integrations have their competitors in bilateral agree-
ments, issue-based IGOs, international regimes, and world go-
rnance, while for hard-liner realists, the low politics of eco-
nomics won’t ever make its way into the high politics.
Keohane and Nye (1977) argued that countries thrown in the
situation of interdependence, mainly those with asymmetrical
interdependences, suffer from sensitivity and vulnerability to
international developments. To a certain extent, states try to de-
fend themselves with purposive actions, among which coopera-
tion is by far the most effective. Cooperative behavior is asso-
ciated with international regimes, and is endogenous with in-
ternational institutions. The shared vision of the authors is a
world where
- societies are connected by multiple channels,
- states are not the only actors in the international arena,
- there is not a clear primacy of security issues versus econ-
omy (high politics does not always constrain low politics), and
- there are limits on the (meaningfulness of) use of military
Yet, the two authors’ separate work suggests that they have
had, in fact, slightly divergent cognitive frames for the prob-
lematic of interdependence. Keohane relies on rational choice
ex planations, while Nye is more inclined toward functionalist-like
Nye wrote extensively on regionalization at the end of the
1960s, and in 1971 published a book entitled Peace in parts:
Integration and conflict in regional organization, a compara-
tive study of regional evolution around the globe. The macro-
region, in which Nye is interested, is “a limited number of sta-
tes linked together by a geographical relationship and by a de-
gree of mutual interdependence.” Interdependence can be regu-
lated by means of deliberate state policies, and Nye’s descrip-
tion of “package deals” pushing forward the integration comes
close to the functionalist notion of spillover (for instance, in
Sandholtz and Zysman’s 1992 account).
Maybe the most notable feature of the book is its effort to
typify regional integrations and measure their development. Nye
1968 has already distinguished three aspects of integration:
economic, social (leading to a “transnational society,”) and po-
litical. Political interdependence means, on the one hand, policy
harmonization, and on the other, the emergence of a “security
community” in Deutsch’s sense (when the peoples involved
find increasingly unthinkable to wage war against each other).
Both the involvement of three interrelated areas of social exis-
tence, and the efforts to work out measures of integration, fall
in the very functionalist tradition. Nye clearly aimed at an ap-
proach to the European integration that did not suppose it was
an n = 1. Yet, at the end of the day, Nye lost much of his con-
fidence that the available conceptual tools can get to the essen-
ce of the phenomena:
“Ten years after the formation of the EEC we are faced with
a more difficult beast to analyze than many people expected at
tha t time. Instead of a classical federation or neat ‘supranational ’
authority we have a complex web of interdependences between
strengthened nation-states. With the nature of the beast likely to
remain ambiguous we need more refined concepts and meas-
urements. At the same time we are faced with regional inte-
gration schemes in less developed areas which appear at times
to resemble the European animal but in causal terms may turn
out to be of different genus or species.”
Keohane’s 1984 book endorses the realist axiom that states
are unitary, rational actors. But they are able of cooperation, at
least their cooperative relationships, once implemented, may
outlast the hegemon who introduced them. In favorable condi-
tions, states may embark on a virtuous course of cooperation13
even in the absence of hegemonic pressures (but not against it).
Such favorable conditions are, for instance, when the “game” is
Stag Hunt rather than Prisoners’ Dilemma, when issue linkages
are possible, and when efficient institutions can be set up to
facilitate information exchange, monitor compliance, and pun-
ish the defectors. Keohane’s vision does not allow for regional
integrations going beyond intergovernmental arrangements:
“International regimes should not be interpreted as elements of
a new international order ‘beyond the nation-state.’ They should
be comprehended chiefly as arrangements motivated by self-
interest: as components of systems in which sovereignty re-
mains a constitutive principle,” further, which “will be shaped
by their most powerful members.”
Keohane’s overall outlook suggests that institutions, unlike
realism’s alliances, are here to last. They do not go deep, but
successful cooperation over decades may build up some soli-
darity among participants. We do not get clear clues from Keo-
hane about where, and when can we expect the emergence of an
international regime, or an IGO, or a regional integration.
When Keohane wrote more concretely on the European inte-
gration, he endorsed the intergovernmentalist approach, as in
the volume that he co-edited with Stanley Hoffmann in 1991.14
13Keohane defines cooperation as mutual policy adjustment to reduce harm
to other state s .
14The volume contains Moravcsik’s “Negotiating the Single European Act,”
as well.
A. K. KOOS 95
Keohane and Hoffmann wrote a common Introduction to the
book, in which they proposed three theses about European institu-
tions: “1. The EC is best characterized as neither an interna-
tional regime nor an emerging state but as a network involving
the pooling of sovereignty. 2. The political process of the EC is
well described by the term “supranationality” as used by Ernst
Haas15. 3. However, the EC has always rested on a set of in-
tergovernmental bargains, and the Single European Act is no
exception to this generalization. (p. 10)” Though the neo-func-
tionalist term “supranationality” is rehabilitated, the spillover is
mostly rejected on behalf of the creed that “large-scale social
change is typically the result of conjunction of events that are
not tightly related to each other.” The contingency of the Euro-
pean trajectory enters mainly through its intergovernmentalist
element. (Whether the states’ interests will cohere or their per-
ception of their interests will do, what is called the prefer-
ence-convergence hypothesis, is a matter of caprices of history).
The authors think that the EC will keep in place, but they are
skeptical about its furthering (either deepening or enlargement).
Before turning to the intergovernmentalist brand, I would
mention Sandholtz and Zysman’s 1989 paper, written three
years before the Maastricht Treaty, in which the authors try to
give an account of why the integration seems to proceed. Their
approach is peculiar enough, a mixture of neoliberal institu-
tionalist arguments on economic interdependence with realist
arguments on security issues (toward the end of the Cold War,
recasting Europe’s the security bargain with the US), and with
liberal arguments on sub-national entities, which here are the
domestic elites. “We therefore propose to analyze 1992 in terms
of elite bargains formulated in response to international struc-
tural change and the Commission’s policy entrepreneurship.”
Sandholtz and Zysman cannot avoid the same problem of con-
tingency that characterizes Keohane and Hoffmann’s intergov-
ernmental bargains proposal. On the contrary, their explanation
gets messier and less convincing because of the arbitrariness of
definition of various national business elites.
Intergovernmentalist approach, as a distinct paradigm, is mo-
st visible from other disciplines, not from the IR field. This is
how a sociologist, a comparativist, or a legal scholar working in
the European studies field, would classify the EU-related work
of an IR scholar belonging to the realist, English School, or
neoliberal institutionalist tradition. In addition, even some IR
liberals have an intergovernmentalist basic stance towards the
European integration. More closely, intergovernmentalism is
associated with the name of Stanley Hoffmann (the “old” in-
tergovernmentalism) and of Andrew Moravcsik (the “liberal”
The technical meaning of intergovernmentalism is that power
remains with the member-states and decisions are to be made in
unanimity—the rules of majoritarian decision-making do not
apply.16 Applied to the European integration, Hoff mann suggests
th a t national governments control the level and speed of Europea n
integration. Governmental decisions are based on transient
domestic political and economic issues, infusing such a contin-
gen cy to the European evolution which excludes all functionalist
idea about necessary spillovers. Hoffmann 1966 criticizes neo-
functionalists on many accounts, such as 1) regional integration
is not a self-contained process, it is subject to the external con-
straints of the international system, in this case the context of
Cold War and US hegemony; 2) states are uniquely powerful
actors; and 3) functionalists fail to distinguish between low and
high politics. Yet, Hoffmann cannot give a coherent account of
why states adopt a certain issue position at all—thus he cannot
ground their opposition to other states’ suggestions or to the
Commissions’s suggestion, either.
Moravcsik tries to fill in this gap of intergovernmentalist
theorization, and he turns to domestic preference-building mecha-
nisms to explain state positions on different issues. In this sense
he is a liberal. He tries to systematize predictions about state
behavior: “I argue that a tripartite explanation of integration—
economic interest, relative power, credible commitments—ac-
counts for the form, substance, and timing of major steps to-
ward European integration (p. 4).” Yet, at a closer view, his
account of “economic interest,” for instance, falls apart to at-
tr ib u tions of economic creeds to groups of decision-makers across
countries. As Helen Wallace pointed out,17 the economic doc-
trines in which the negotiators framed their national interests
changed a lot during the decades. Moravcsik tends to attribute
the theory that most fits his explanation to the actors. And
Wallace also suggests that Moravcsik’s analysis “provides for-
midable arguments against those who portray European integra-
tion as necessarily a cumulative and irreversible process,” an
accusation vehemently denied by Moravcsik. Yet, his analyses
1) fail to ground the irreversibility of the process; 2) fail to
ground the generalizability of the process, 3) fail to give a good
description of the everyday workings of the integration process.
This latest argument was formulated by institutionalist and
comparativist critics, such as Garrett and Tsebelis 1996, Wincott
1995, and Mattli 1999, who also made some epistemological re-
marks about the selection biases inherent to Moravcsik’s
methodology, and the non-testability of his proposals.
To the direct question of ECSA Review, Moravcsik answered
that yes, the EU was an n = 1, but this was not a reason for
despair. “The ‘n = 1 problem’ is not unique to the EU; it is a
foundational characteristic of social science. Unlike collisions
among elementary particles, complex social interactions are in
fundamental ways unique. Yet useful theories and results in in-
ternational and comparative politics exist because scholars have
circumvented the n = 1 problem by employing [various] meth-
ods.” Unfortunately, writing about the genesis of an n = 1 i s an
exercise in description, rather than an explanation.
Beginning with the 1980s, a new paradigm made its entrance
into the IR field. While the already established realist, liberal,
and neoliberal institutionalist approaches promoted capabilities,
interests, and rationality as explanatory principles, the new
approach, const ructivism, claime d that none of these factors can
work without shared understandings about what is a resource to
be sought, what is an interest to be defended, and what is a
rational course of actions. Constructivism is sometimes portrayed
as if it would explain with ideas and identities. More accurately,
it is a meta-theory about the social construction of meanings
necessary for real-world behavior, which was developed within
sociology, and affected IR in various ways.
First, constructivism is an ingredient of the functionalist and
15This meaning of supranationality is not federalism, but rather Puchala’s
concordance system and Gary Marks’s multi-level governance. In Keo-
hane’s and Hoffmann’s interpretation it echoes Keohane’s definition for
cooperation/collective action, that states mutually adjust their policies to
reduce harm to each other and p ursue collectiv e gains.
16Symmetrically, supranationalism can be defined as an alternative method
of decision-making, allowing for the possibility that other states’ decisions
become compulsory within a member state. 17At the symposium organize d to discuss M oravcsik’s 19 98 book.
neo-functionalist integration theories. Mitrany and Deutsch ex-
pe cted denser transnational interactions carried out under the con-
trol of successful international organizations to build up “a sen-
se of community, ‘we-ne ss,’ mutual sy mpathy, loy alty, and shar e d
identity. This in turn is likely to be based on shared principles,
on collectively held norms, and on common understandings.”18
Though these views have underlain the whole of the EU con-
struction within the supranationalist and federalist approaches,
they did not emerge in the IR literature until the strengthening
of a so-called “social constructivist” paradigm in the 1990s.
Second, I would mention a group of theorists, who, such as
Adler, Katzenstein, and Wendt, applied constructivist principles
to explain state behavior and the inter-state system. Adler and
Barnett’s 1998 edited volume also refers to Deutsch,19 this time
to his concept of “security community.” Deutsch thought that
security communities may be either amalgamated (when the
countries unify: “formally merge” and bring about some kind of
common government) or pluralistic (when states preserve their
sovereignty). The book sets out to explore the possibilities of
pluralistic security communities, in which there is no sover-
eignty transfer, thus no valid comparison with the European
integration can be made.
In a similar vein, Wendt 1994 gives a programmatic formu-
lation of explanations of peaceful coexistence without sover-
eignty transfer. “Constructivism is a structural theory of the
international system that makes the following core claims: 1)
states are the principal units of analysis for international politi-
cal theory; 2) the key structures in the states system are inter-
subjective, rather than material; and 3) state identities and in-
terests are in important part constructed by these social struc-
tures, rather than given exogenously to the system by human
nature or domestic politics. The second claim opposes realism.
The third opposes systemic theories that are rationalist in form . .. ”
Wendt thinks that the constructivist axioms allow for an inter-
national system in which states remain the major (if not unique)
players, but systemic change becomes possible: “It is widely
thought that state-centric systemic international relations theory
cannot explain structural change and so ought to be abandoned.
In my view, the problem lies not with statism but with two
other commitments that inform contemporary understandings of
structural theory: realism and rationalism.”
Thus Wendt proposes an idealist statism to account for
change in the system, but he confesses not having any clear pre-
diction about how the world would or should evolve. “I spe-
cifically do not impute any directionality or teleology to the
historical process.” His theoretic al foundation does not allow for
the formation of supranational power centers, least for their
taking the form of regional integrations, and does not provide
reasons for which the accidental emergence of a regional inte-
gration in one part of the world should be repeated in other
parts of the inter-state system.
John Ruggie’s work on international regimes, and of Nicho-
las Onuf’s on agent-structure problems are other well estab-
lished versions of constructivism in IR. Yet, pertinent to the
European integration, it is the so-called Copenhagen School’s
activity that should be mentioned.
In 1999, Moravcsik harshly criticized their contribution to
th e integration literatu re. He summed up the constructivist group’s
basic outlook in two propositions. “The first is that govern-
mental élites choose specific policies, policy ideas, strategies,
and concrete interests because they (or their justifications) are
consistent with more general, deeper, collectively held ideas or
discourses. The second core proposition shared by nearly all
participants in this volume states that underlying ideas and
discourses change only at rare ‘critical junctures,’ which arise
in response to political crises.” Moravcsik thinks that the first
claim is unacceptable, while the second is not new: it is part of
rational accounts, as well, as of his liberal intergovernmental-
ism. Yet, it seems that the boundaries of the group are far from
sharp. Ole Waever is a founding member, but was Moravcsik
right when he listed Ben Rosamond, Martin Marcussen, Tho-
mas Risse, Jeffrey Checkel a nd Thomas Diez in the same group?
In their rejoinder, Risse and Wiener 1999 point out significant
differences among these authors. And they claim that Moravc-
sik misunderstands social constructivism. “Rationalist accounts
including liberal intergovernmentalism bracket an d exogenize …
interests and identities, while constructivism tries to bring them
into the light of investigation.”
Finally, in the field of constructivist theories, the American/-
British exclusivity is not as pervasive as in the previously men-
tioned approaches. The Copenhagen School is geographically
Europe-based, and the members of the social const ructivi st group
have strong ties with the old continent. In addition, the Asian
region has also found a recognized theorist in the person of
Amirav Acharya. In his 2003 paper, Acharya makes a very wel-
come comparison between European and East Asian regionalism:
“Asian institutions have not taken the supranational path of
the European Union. Instead, they have been sovereignty con-
forming. The EU emerged because the nation-state was blamed
for two major catastrophic wars. Asian norms and institutions
were shaped by decolonization at a time when the main concern
of regional actors was to preserve the modern nation-state as a
permanent feature of the Asian political order. The reason why
Asia has had no European-style institutions has a lot do with
the norms of sovereignty developed in the early aftermath of
World War II. At the conference of Asian and African states
held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, a decision was taken not
to bureaucratize regional cooperation because it might under-
mine the hard-earned sovereignty of the new states. The ‘basic
aim’ of that conference was ‘the formulation and establishment
of certain norms for the conduct of present-day international re-
lations and the instruments for the practical application of these
To large extents, Asian regionalism relies on informal rules,
shared norms, and consensus-building, non-confrontational bar-
gaining style. The argument of Acharya is that these have been
effective thus far,20 and will be in the future, as well. “Instead
of sliding into anarchy or organizing itself into a pre-Westpha-
lian hierarchy, Asia is increasingly able to manage its insecurity
through shared regional norms, rising economic interdepen-
dence, and growing institutional linkages: precisely the kind of
mechanisms that the ‘ripe for rivalry’ thesis underestimates.”
The question is whether the rising economic interdependence,
and growing institutional linkages will or will not induce the
same type of evolution toward supranationality: precisely as in
Europe. And if Acharya was right in 1997 that the ASEAN
Way is characterized by pragmatism and expediency rather than
by dogmatic clinging on organizational principles, then we may
expect the Asian states to embark on an “ever closer union”
course, as well.
In sum, constructivism is too fragmented to distill a unique
20And he quotes Barry Buzan and Gerald Segal who acknowledged that
“The Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) states have con-
structed a durable security regime that has allowed them to solve and de-
militarise a variety of disputes between them.”
18Deutsch is quoted in Hurrell p. 65.
19In the editors’ introductory chapter, entitled “Security communities in
theoretical perspective.”
A. K. KOOS 97
position with regard to their take on Europe is n = 1. I would
suggest that statist constructivism is more reluctant to allow for
the iteration of the European experience than societal construc-
tivisms, which are interested in the identities of people rather
than of states.
Individualist Theories
IR realism, and Hurrell too, classifies theories as either struc-
tural or domestic, the latter term clearly embodying a statist
standpoint. From a more general epistemological viewpoint, the
liberal IR theory, which is the only one specimen of the “do-
mestic” category, can be ca l led “individualis t .”
Liberalism has a long tradition in the field of international
thinking, but it did not cohere into a salient paradigm at parity
with realism until the 1990s. It was Doyle who made a first
attempt to systematize liberal beliefs in 1986, and the direct
heir of this attempt is Russett and Oneal’s 2001 book on “Tri-
angulating peace,” that is, on Kantian peace. This synthesis is
the best summary of the substantive theses of IR liberalism (or
liberalism’s in the IR field). Similarly, Moravcsik 1997 gives
an account of IR liberalism that epistemologically parallels the
“axioms” of IR realism:
1) Agency—The fundamental actors in international politics
are individuals and private groups, who exchange and may
organize (collective ac t io n ) t o promote their interests.
2) Representation and State Preferences—States (or other po-
litical institutions) represent some subset of domestic society,
whose interests the rational state officials pursue through world
3) Interdependence and the International System—The con-
figuration of interdependent state preferences determines state
behavior. Each state seeks to realize its distinctive preferences
under varying constraints imposed by the preferences of other
Other accounts try to get the big picture, and include features
of the liberal tradition which are beyond the realists-endorsed
IR issues, such as development, welfare aims, and values. For
instance, Zacher and Matthew (1992) think that the core theses
of liberalism are the following:
1) International relations are gradually being transformed so
that they promote greater human freedom and establishing con-
ditions of peace, prosperity and justice. (Progressive, meliorist
stance, but without a necessary end-state).
2) Central to the realization of greater human freedom is the
growth of international cooperation.
3) International relations are being transformed by a process
of modernization, unleashed by the scientific revolution.
Liberal thinkers often earned the label of idealist and utopian
because of their open engagement with moral assessments and
normative choices. Yet, from the perspective of outsiders, real-
ism is not axiologically neutral, either. It confers moral value
on the maintenance of nation-states, and the furthering of what
is perceived as national interest, otherwise, enshrines state
sovereignty and nationalism. Thus the difference between lib-
eralism and realism lies in what kinds of values they defend,
rather than in one being engaged and the other value-free. The
liberals’ basic individualism is reasonably compatible with a
human rights framework that sets limits to state sovereignty.
From this perspective, nation-states are accidental formations,
which may or may not be the frames that best serve the cause of
human rights and human welfare. This way of reasoning meets
the functionalists’ claim that states are responsible for the wel-
fare of their citizens.
Functionalism is a holist paradigm, while liberalism is basi-
cally individualist, but their shared moral outlook and the resil-
ience of individualism has brought them in the same camp with
regard to the possibility of international cooperation.21 Liberals
of all brands allow for the real-world causal consequences of
international organizations, including regional integrations.
The real hard-core liberal IR theory is geared toward admit-
ting the possibility of international institutions and international
law ab le to achieve the complia nce of states. In 1993, Anne-Marie
Slaughter Burley contributed to two papers22 analyzing how
compliance with the international law may be achieved, for
instance by embedding the international agreements in domes-
tic political and bureaucratic processes. She has also found
evidence for the Kantian relationship between democracy and
effectiveness of international law .
From this legal perspective, the sectoral nature of the or-
ganization/integration is not really relevant. Yet, the literature
on regional integrations has actually become split along sectoral
lines. There is, on the one hand, a literature of the economic
regionalism, and, on the other, of the security regimes. For both,
the EU is a par excellence specimen, but only one case of sev-
eral possible.
Liberal economists are not as enthusiastic about regional eco-
nomic integrations as other liberal theorists are when they spot
a well functioning group of states. Some of them (e.g. Paul
Krugman and Larry Summers) argue that regional preferential
agreements work against global free trade, and may induce
competition and conflict among regions. According to Mans-
fied and Milner 1999, the evidence is shared with regard to the
malignancy of the new wave of regionalization in the 1990s. In
general, economic modeling shows a decrease of the overall
freedom of trade when regional integrations are established,
while empirical studies show, that “regionalism can, depending
on the circumstances, be associated with either more or less
general liberalization.’’ In their 1999 article, Mansfied and Mil-
ner do not try to introduce other economic criteria for assessing
regional economic integrations, than the freedom-of-trade con-
siderations.23 In the political domain, the authors are interested
in whether regional arrangements serve as vehicles for the in-
terests of the most powerful states, and find that “in contrast to
the interwar period, there is relatively little indication that re-
gionalism has been the product of active attempts by states to
promote their political-military power.”
Another “specialized” perspective on regional integrations is
security-focused. It seems that this liberal version of security
studies is more European than American. Charillon 2005 claims
that “the regionalization of security issues is a growing trend,”
and Tavares 2008 concurs that “important aspects of interna-
tional politics tend to be regional rather than fully global or
exclusively nationalsome regions peaceful, others are vio-
lent.” Drawing on Buzan and Waever 2003, and on Lake and
Morgan 1997, Tavares suggests a theory built around the notion
of regional peace and security cluster. These clusters operate at
21Yet, in economy, for instance, liberalism won’t relinquish its individualism.
22Slaughter Burley 1993 a n d Burley a nd Mattli 1993.
23Yet, their historical account suggests that states may have various reasons
for joining a regional bloc, such as fostering industrialization: “Unlike the
episode of the 1930s, the current initiatives represent effor ts to facilitate their
members’ participation in the world economy rather than their withdrawal
from it. Unlike those in the 1950s and 1960s, the initiatives involving de-
veloping countries are part of a strategy to liberalize and open their econo-
mies to implement export- and foreign investment-led policies rather than to
promote import substitution.”
various levels of regional integration, the third level of “regional
community” having been achieved by the EU only. It is to be
mentioned, that, as in Buzan and Waever 2003 too, economic,
social and domestic political features have a role in the nature
of security clusters.
And finally, we have the questions originated in comparative
politics studies, about how an integration of (originally) sover-
eign states can be governed? One of the earliest answers was
Puchala’s 1972 description of the EU as a “Concordance Sys-
tem,” which “includes actors from subnational, national, trans-
national and supranational levels, without a clear or pre-estab-
lished hierarchy among them. It is international, but rather bu-
reaucratic than intergovernmental.” This vision matured in the
theory of the multi-level governance later, regularly associated
with the name of Gary Marks and Liesbeth Hooghe.
While the theory of multi-level governance is not regarded as
part of the IR literature, a rival theory of the regulatory state is
listed among IR theories by Hurrell (as “convergence theories”).
Probably because in this vision forwarded by Majone, the
te chnocratic center won’t ever materialize as a power-center able
to extract money and impose compliance. It gets only rule-
making attributions from the member states, in order to formu-
late policies on which these latter already converge. Majone
does not exclude the possibility that similar regulatory conver-
gences aided by institutions may emerge anywhere on the globe.
Yet, governance theorists are unlikely to be taken seriously
in the IR field unless give an account of what happens to state
sovereignty when supranationalism emerges. One answer is the
pooling of sovereignty, which may lead to either a regulatory
center, or to a thicker supranational forum, as the EU is sup-
posed to be. Another explanation (Mattli 2000) relies on the
concept of “sovereignty bargains.” The term was coined by
Karen Litfin in 1997. “States engage in sovereignty bargains in
which they voluntarily accept some limitations in exchange for
certain benefits.” In this perspective, the monolithic principle of
sovereignty falls apart into three dimensions: autonomy, control,
and legitimacy.24 “In a sovereignty bargain, control may be
enhanced by sacrificing autonomy; or increased control may
undercut a state’s legitimacy. While sovereignty bargains re-
configure sovereignty, they do not necessarily diminish it; re-
duced autonomy, for example, may be the price to pay for en-
hanced control or legitimacy.” This way IR liberalism tries to
live up to Moravcsik’s warnings that integration will be ac-
ceptable to states only as long as “it strengthens, rather than
weakens, their control over domestic affairs, permitting them to
attain goals otherwise unachievable.”
In sum, the IR liberals are basically optimistic about the pos-
sibility of regional integrations, and think about them in plural.
The drawback is that 1) they are not particularly supportive of
regional economic integrations, and 2) their accounts about
regionalization do not come together in one comprehensive
narrative such as the functionalist.
Critical Theories
The category of critical theories, completely missing from
Hurrell’s account, is introduced for perspectives that are not
contented with giving an account of the international arena, but
have the ambition to induce changes in it.
Looking at the previous categories, there are two visions that
give an account of how regional integration is possible and
allow for their development.25 A core liberal theory suggests
that democratic trading countries bring about an international
law that at its turn fuses with the domestic laws, and lays the
foundations for state integrations of any kind, issue-based, re-
gional, and global. Yet, this brand of liberalism, the Kantian
peace theory does not elaborate on the propelling forces of the
democratic peace(ful integration). Functionalism has elaborated
on the causes (people desire of more welfare) and mechanisms
(spillovers and loyalty shifts) of issue-based or regional inte-
grations. This account is highly relevant for what happened in
Europe, but has two built-in limitations:
1) Assumes that states start from economic cooperation,
which is applicable to industrial and post-industrial countries
only. For pre-industrial countries in Africa, unifying markets is
not the hottest item on agenda. They would probably start from
the security side.
2) It is a “peace in parts,” an incremental account, both in
time and geographically (or along issues). As Mansfield and
Milner pointed out, in economy, the regional preferential agree-
ments may come to the detriment of overall freedom of trade,
and a group of states getting stronger in virtue of their regional
integration may impose its political will on looser organized
third parties.
In addition, in the 70 years since the formulation of the func-
tionalist integration theory, the world underwent changes that
ask for amendments to the theory. As pressed by realists, the
problem of international terrorism should be addressed. Func-
tionalism is blind to polarity issues, and cannot conceptualize
the EU in the role of the first challenger of a declining, but still
powerful hegemon that thinks about its own position in IR real-
ist terms. Though economic interdependence among the par-
ticipant countries is among the assumptions of functionalism, it
cannot handle the issue of globalization, as such: the interde-
pendence among all countries of the world. Actually, some
components of globalization, as the formation of a common
material culture (the “McDonaldization”), the workforce migra-
tion, global broadcasting, internet, and tourism, may help the
world stir away from anarchy, with or without regional integra-
tions. Finally, functionalism has not foreseen the weight of the
environmental problems.
From a critical standpoint, the regional arrangements are al-
ready surpassed by our global problems. Critical theories tend
to think globally, and reach a conclusion about the nature and
value of regional integrations in function of their more general
Postmodernist theories in this field have critical value, rather
than theory building value. They are important not in virtue of
what they say, but in virtue of what they point out to be incur-
rect. In this regard we can mention Ashley’s 1986 criticism of
IR realism, and more generally, of rationalist accounts that
exogenize the actors’ motives and identities. Postmodern writ-
ings pertinent to international relations aim at showing how
socio-territorial identities change in time, for instance, national
identities may be surpassed by either “imperial” or kinds of
“r eg i onal” identities. The fluid nature of demarcating sub-nation al
and supra-national regions invites analyses of what determines
the perception of regional borders (as in Anssi Paasi), and what
25IR constructivism does not have an integration theory of its own. But it
may provide arguments in support of any other. And the social constructiv-
ism of the Copenhagen School contributed to Tavares’s complex security
clusters proposal, which may become a better account for South-East Asia
and Africa, than the economy-based functionalist account.
24“Autonomy refers to independence in policymaking and action; control is
the ability to produce an effect; and legitimacy refers to the recognized right
to make rules.” Legitimacy may be internal and external.
A. K. KOOS 99
discourses may push participants toward regional cooperation
(as in Amy Skonieczny). Postmodernism is as critical of the
European integration as of anything else, and no typical post-
modern standpoint relative to the issue can be outlined.
Public opinion polls tend to show a gender gap in support for
the European integration. The gap is not wide, and sometimes it
does not emerge as significant, but it shows up often enough to
fuel beliefs that women are less happy with the EU than men.
The most plausible explanation for women’s less support is that
they have more reasons to fear the neoclassic economic policies
imposed by Brussels and the dismantling of the welfare state
(which is also often attributed to the EU).
No wonder that most feminist scholarship about the EU fo-
cused on the economic, social and political position of women
within the enlarged polity, maybe primarly in the employment
and development sectors. Little work has been dedicated to
reviewing integration theories from feminist viewpoints. Kron-
sell 2005 aims at filling in this gap, and makes challenging
claims about the leading approaches, such as “liberal intergov-
ernmentalism defines the place of politics as a place where
women are not.”26 Further, realism and intergovernmentalism
assume the existence of a national interest, while “research such
as MacRae’s suggests that gender differences may lie behind
what are perceived as consensual national interests.” Feminism
is more positive about theories of multi-level governance, and
about neofunct iona lism’ s emph as i s on tr ansn at io nal in teres t groups.
Kronsell refers to the EU’s gender mainstreaming policies and
the beneficial effects of EU rules on countries that had less
developed women’s advancement policies. She thinks that these
effects make supranationalism welcome on the feminist agenda,
but suggests that Stone Sweet and Sandholtz 1997 offer the best
version of theory of supranationalism, which is disputable.
More generally, feminist authors have always opposed the IR
realist worldview, the masculine notions of security, and the
pervasive militarization of societies (as in Tickner 1992, Enloe
2000). Regional integrations, with all their problems and fail-
ings, depart from these views.
Class-Based Theories
According to opinion polls, less educated people with lower
income are less supportive of integration than the more edu-
cated and wealthier. The reasons for this phenomenon may be
analogous with women’s less support as compared to men’s
support. Yet, with regard to the respondents’ party choices, a
strange pattern has emerged. Until the 1990s, voters of the
rightist parties were more enthusiastic about the EU. Since the
1990s, it is people on the left side of the political spectrum who
offer more support to integration.
The change in party support occurred in the moment when
the economic integration came to an end, and the new items on
agenda fell in the direction of political unification. Though
there is no elaborated Marxist theory about regional integra-
tions and the European development, these facts can be ex-
plained with the leftist push toward embedding and domestic-
cating markets. The Gramscian theory of Robert Cox and Ste-
ven Gill, is geared toward showing the need for, and finding the
ways to, controlling the negative effects of globalization.27
From this perspective, regional economic integrations are
valuable only if, and to the extent to which, they make possible
that the market integration be accompanied by political integra-
tion. An embedded market economy frees labor, as well, not
only the capital, and makes possible the application of social
constraints on capital, including taxation, labor- and environ-
mental standards.
As the best disciple of this theory, Italian communist Altiero
Spinelli led a significant federalist movement since 1941 to
1986, when he died as a member of the European Parliament,
which in 1984 voted 237:31 for the “Draft Treaty Establishing
the European Union,” drafted by Spinelli’s Crocodile Club.28
Yet, most of the national social-democratic, socialist and com-
munist movements find it hard to give up the familiar nation-
state based interest defending schemes and think in strategies
within the large European/regional arena. The nation-state fo-
cus of the Left greatly lessens pressures for political integration.
The other salient brand of Marxism-rooted thinking, that of
Wallerstein (referred to as world systems theory), would proba-
bly not approve of the morality of an integration that makes the
wealthy states more powerful to the detriment of the poor.
Wallerstein’s political intentions are better represented by the
World Social Forum, than by the European integration.
Yet, the big question is that which project can be more effec-
tive in the real world to bring about peace, security, prosperity,
and justice. The “peace in parts” solution works very slowly,
but thus far it is the only one that managed to overcome fierce
nationalisms, which, from the perspective of feminists is patri-
archal, and from the perspective of Marxists, is capitalism-
As a third descendent of Marxism-rooted thinking, contem-
poraneous representatives of the Frankfurt school work on im-
proving and helping the functionalist project. Habermas’s writ-
ings on constitutional patriotism try to bridge the gap between
“thick” national identities (where citizenship is doubled by a
shared culture) and “thin” European identity (where there is no
shared language to foster solidarity).
Unfortunately, besides the opposition of capital to be con-
trolled, there are two further reasons for not precipitating a
European federalism as suggested by Spinelli. An enlarged po-
lity without a sense of solidarity among members feels like an
empire, may depress citizen interest and loyalty, and actually
hinder the implementation of redistributive policies. Finally, ex-
periments in multi-level governance are necessary for forging
new ways of democratic self-government in large polities. It is
a new political culture in formation, with proportional representa-
tion, consensus-building, involvement of the stakeholders, and
of non-political participants in policy formulation, for instance.
In sum, for class-based theories, authority beyond the na-
tion-state is a must in the globalizing world. They also believe
that international and supranational formations are possible, but
have not elaborated on which scenario deserves most support.
I started this inquiry with the observation that most accounts
of the overall European integration literature delineate three
main approaches: intergovernmentalism, supranationalism, and
27Closest to their concerns, it is John Ruggie’s paper on the usefulness o
regimes of “embedded liberalism” and Susan Strange’s description of “ca-
sino capitalism” that address these problems.
28The “Draft treaty” was rejected in the Council of Ministers, but it is
considered to have had an impact on negotiating the Single European Act in
1987, after decades of Eurosklerosis.
26“The focus on the unitary state is obfuscation, feminists argue, because it
fails to consider the power relations inside the state and does not recognize
the state’s ability to exploit the resources of the nation. The concept ‘state’
makes the hierarchy between state and nation invisible and gender relations
become irrelevant.”
Should we really say that within the international relations
field, we have other approaches?
Within IR, the proportion of “Euroskeptics,” of those who do
not believe that the integration is possible (or should go farther)
is incommensurably higher than in 1) other disciplines, and 2)
in the real life, as evidenced by opinion polls.
Among IR scholars who allow for the possibility of a Euro-
pean kind of “ever closer union,” again,
1) the proportion of (“liberal”) intergovernmentalists is com-
paratively very high. Functionalists and neo-functionalists are
often excluded from the sphere of IR scholars, while federalism
is not represented at all.
2) the proportion of those who believe that the European ex-
perience is unique and despite its success, the world remains
composed of nation-states, is also very high.
Unfortunately, if functionalism is expulsed from the IR field,
then we cannot claim that IR has contributed any systematic
theory to explain such a highly salient phenomenon than the
creation of the EU. The liberal attempts to account for it are
welcome, but neither the law-based (Slaughter Burley) nor the
security-based (Tavares) explanations have cohered in a mature
theory yet. And they will have a hard time to get the support of
liberal economists for their explanations.
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