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Showing Ideas as Causes: The Origins of the European Union


  • Parsons, Craig


Why did Western Europe create uniquely strong international institutions in the 1950s, setting the foundations for today's quasi-federal European Union? This article contests explanations of the European Economic Community (EEC) as a straightforward response to structural interdependence, or as an institutionally “path-dependent” variation on such a response. Only leadership based on certain ideas explains why Europeans created the EEC rather than pursuing cooperation within weaker institutions or standard diplomatic instruments. In France—the only major state that insisted on the “community” framework—divided preferences and issue-linkages created “multiple equilibria” that allowed leaders to mobilize support for several European strategies. The EEC strategy was selected over viable alternatives by leaders who stood out from their party, bureaucratic, sectoral, and regional allies in holding certain ideas about Europe. This demonstration of the major, distinct impact of ideas offers concrete support to the growing theoretical literature on ideas and norms.

Suggested Citation

  • Parsons, Craig, 2002. "Showing Ideas as Causes: The Origins of the European Union," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 47-84, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:56:y:2002:i:01:p:47-84_44

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:pal:palcom:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-017-0028-x is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Vincent Della Sala, 2010. "Political Myth, Mythology and the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48, pages 1-19, January.
    3. Per M. Norheim-Martinsen, 2010. "Beyond Intergovernmentalism: European Security and Defence Policy and the Governance Approach," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48, pages 1351-1365, November.
    4. Parsons, Craig & Richardson, J. David, 2004. "Lessons for Asia?: European experiences--in American perspective--in legitimizing market integration," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 885-907, January.
    5. Sabine Saurugger, 2016. "Sociological Approaches to the European Union in Times of Turmoil," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(1), pages 70-86, January.
    6. Christoph O. Meyer & Eva Strickmann, 2011. "Solidifying Constructivism: How Material and Ideational Factors Interact in European Defence," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 61-81, January.
    7. William R. Lowry, 2009. "Policy Changes on Canada's Rivers: Different but not Isolated," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 26(6), pages 783-800, November.
    8. Stéphanie C. Hofmann, 2011. "Why Institutional Overlap Matters: CSDP in the European Security Architecture," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 101-120, January.
    9. Eichengreen, Barry, 2002. "Lessons of the Euro for the Rest of the World," Institute of European Studies, Working Paper Series qt16g425jb, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley.
    10. Daniel Béland & John Myles, 2008. "Policy Change in the Canadian Welfare State: Comparing the Canada Pension Plan and Unemployment Insurance," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 235, McMaster University.
    11. repec:spr:waterr:v:31:y:2017:i:8:d:10.1007_s11269-016-1496-2 is not listed on IDEAS

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