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PO333 European Integration. Lecture, topic 3. Classical theories of European integration. Lecture themes An introduction to the use of theory in EU studies in particular ‘neofunctionalism’ and ‘intergovernmentalism’, i.e. ‘classical integration theory’ ...

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PO333 European Integration

Lecture, topic 3.

Classical theories of European integration


Lecture themes

  • An introduction to the use of theory in EU studies
    • in particular ‘neofunctionalism’ and ‘intergovernmentalism’, i.e. ‘classical integration theory’ ...
    • ... a debate that developed in the 1960s and has framed much discussion in EU studies since, but ...
    • ... not the complete picture (see topics 8 and 11)
  • These theories provide rival answers to key questions:
    • how/why has authority shifted to the European level?
    • why do governments give up aspects of their sovereignty?
    • how generalisable is the European experience of integration?
  • How do we evaluate rival theoretical claims?

1. Integration theory in context

  • The appearance of the European Communities in the 1950s coincides with the increasing specialisation of the social sciences, especially in the US
  • Precursors (ancestors) of ‘integration theory’
    • Federalism
      • associations with inter-war federalist movement
      • relationship to normative commitments to post-nationalism (from Kant onwards)

Immanuel Kant Perpetual Peace (1795)

Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi Pan Europa (Knopf, 1926)


1. Integration theory in context 2

    • functionalism (see lecture topic 2)
      • critique of the inefficiencies of national government
      • advocacy of functional regimes to manage human needs (‘form follows function’ – Mitrany)
      • critique of regional integration as a ‘one-stop’ solution
    • ‘transactionalism’
      • the creation of ‘security communities’ ...
      • ... through cross border societal transactions
  • Integration theory and International Relations theory
  • the importance of liberal IR theory
  • why realism is different
  • IR versus political science?

Karl W. Deutsch et al Political Community in the North Atlantic Area (Princeton UP, 1957)

David Mitrany A Working Peace System, (RIIA, 1943)


2. Neofunctionalism

  • Arguably the theoretical foundation of modern EU studies
  • A theory that emerged in early studies of the ECSC (see topic 2) ...
  • ... but one that was rooted in the political science of the 1950s ...
    • theory-building – aiming to create generalisable findings (i.e. the ambition to create a generalisable theory of international integration)
    • ‘end of ideolgy’ assumptions
    • interest in societal complexity and pluralism
  • ... within IR but critical of it
    • complex societies not wholly/permanently attuned to security imperatives
    • international politics is not just about diplomacy and the interaction of national executives – interest in the role of societal groups.
  • Became popular again in the late 1980s (see topic 5)

Societies characterised by pluralist complexity are more prone to integrate

  • Other ‘background conditions’:
    • high level of economic development
    • ideological convergence
    • interdependence
  • What is integration? ...

‘Political integration is the process whereby political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities to a new center, whose institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over pre-existing national states. The end result is a new political community, superimposed over the pre-existing ones’ Ernst B. HaasThe Uniting of Europe (Stanford University Press, 1958) p. 16


How integration happens – ‘spillover’

    • how (self-interested) actors’ expectations and loyalties shift in the direction of supranational institutions
    • how the remit of integration expands:
      • deepening of integration in areas already under supranational remit
      • expansion of substantive areas under the remit of supranational institutions
      • from technical/regulatory domains to political integration
  • An inherent logic of deeper and wider integration?
    • is integration ‘inherently expansive’
    • does it require agency?

‘a situation in which a given action, related to a specific goal, creates a situation in which the original goal can be assured only by taking further actions, which in turn create a further condition and a need for more action, and so forth’. Leon N. Lindberg The Political Dynamics of European Economic Integration (Stanford University press, 1963, p. 10


Criticisms of neofunctionalism

    • Empirically successful, c1950-1965 (and maybe c1985-c1992), but not good at capturing the full story of European integration
      • fails as a general theory of EI?
      • (see topics 4 and 5 to see what you think)
    • The ‘failure’ of the European experience to replicate itself elsewhere
    • ‘Spillover’ – a local European phenomenon ....
      • ... so n = 1 (implies that NF has no analytical leverage)
      • fails as a general theory of integration?
    • Factors out national interests (see below)
    • Cannot explain the origins of supranational institutions
      • NF relies on their prior existence before it can say anything meaningful
  • Valid criticisms? ...

Ben Rosamond ‘The Uniting of Europe and the Foundations of EU Studies: Revisiting the Neofunctionalism of Ernst B. Haas’, Journal of European Public Policy 12(2), 2005, pp.237-254


3. Intergovernmentalism

  • Early critics of neofunctionalism
    • especially Stanley Hoffmann
    • ‘dramatic actors’ (e.g. the rise of de Gaulle)
    • ‘low’ and ‘high’ politics ...
    • ... what about national interests?
    • the importance of external shapers of NIs
  • Andrew Moravcsik’s approach
    • ‘liberal intergovernmentalism’
    • a close relative of ‘liberal institutionalist IR
    • again, opposed to neofunctionalism
    • a starting point for much contemporary theoretical debate
    • (interesting implications for discussions of EU democracy – see topic 8)

Stanley Hoffmann ‘Obstinate or Obsolete? The Fate of the Nation-State and the Case of Western Europe’, Daedalus 95(3), 1966, pp. 862-915

Andrew Moravcsik The Choice for Europe: Social Purpose and State Power from Messina to Maastricht (Cornell University Press, 1998)


‘European integration has been powered by the pragmatic search for commercial benefits in the world’s most economically interdependent continent’, Andrew Moravcsik ‘Introduction: Europe Without Illusions’, in A, Moravcsik (ed.) Europe Without Illusions: the Paul-Henri Spaak Lectures 1994-1999 (University Press of America, 2005) ,p.13 -

National level game ↓

←Intergovernmental level game

Intergovernmental bargains

National government



Institutionalised bargains – transaction costs, transparency, trust

‘Commercial preferences

Domestic politics


A two-level game


Can explain why integration happens and why it does not

  • How integration might strengthen national govts vis-a- vis their domestic societies:

‘National governments are able to take initiatives nd reach bargains in the Council negotiation with relatively little constraint. The EC provides information to governments that is not generally available ... National leaders undermine potential opposition by reaching bargains first and presenting domestic groups with an “up and down” choice. Andrew Moravcsik ‘Preferences and Power in the European Community: A Liberal Intergovernmentalist Approach’, Journal of Common Market Studies 31(4), 1993, p. 515.

  • Criticisms of liberal intergovernmentalism
    • Focus on inter-governmental bargaining and treaty-making moments
      • ignores other forms of institutional interaction ... (supranational institutions as agencies to implement the will of member-state ‘principals’)
      • ... and misses the significance of the ‘everyday’ politics of the EU (Wincott, Wieler – see also topics 4 and 5)
    • Treats the EU as a ‘second order’ political system
    • Has nothing to say about EU governance – only integration
    • Downplays the significance of ideas in integration