The New Institutionalisms and European Integration
The European Union is without question the most densely institutionalisedinternational organization in the world, with a welter of intergovernmental andsupranational institutions and a rapidly growing body of primary and secondarylegislation, the so-called acquis communautaire. Small wonder, then, that the body ofliterature known under the rubric of the new institutionalism has been applied withincreasing frequency and with increasing success to the study of the Union as a polityand to European integration as a process. In fact, however, the new institutionalismin social theory has evolved into plural institutionalisms, with rational-choice,sociological and historical variants, each with a distinctive set of hypotheses andinsights about the EU. This chapter examines the new institutionalisms in rationalchoice and historical analysis and their contributions to EU studies, briefly summarizingthe core assumptions of each approach before discussing specific applications to thestudy of the European Union and the question of EU enlargement, and concluding withan analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of institutional approaches to the study ofEuropean integration.
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