Constructivist approaches to European integration
Constructivist approaches to the study of Europe are trendy. Deliberation, discourses, norms, persuasion, socialization, identity, arguing – such concepts and terms are now frequently invoked in debates over the past and future of the European project. As I argue in this essay, however, constructivism as applied to the European Union (EU) may have come of age too soon. In the rush to bring its insights to bear, important issues have been neglected – including meta-theory (an unclear epistemology), methods (taking the linguistic turn seriously), concepts (power’s underspecified role) and theory (domestic politics). For a relatively new research program, such problems are understandable. Indeed, they are not that hard to fix – especially if constructivists overcome their internal divisions, and simultaneously view the EU less as a sui generis political order and more as an exciting laboratory for exploring themes of relevance to the broader academic community.
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