The European Commission and the Integration of Europe: Images of Governance

The European Commission and the Integration of Europe: Images of Governance

The European Commission and the Integration of Europe: Images of Governance

The European Commission and the Integration of Europe: Images of Governance

Synopsis

It is often assumed that the European Commission is a unitary actor, with a shared set of values. Liesbet Hooghe's book questions this assumption through interviews with over one hundred officials on central issues in the governance of Europe. She finds that officials in fact have diverse views, are not "socialized" during their time at the Commission, and that contention over key issues within the Commission echoes debates among Europe's wider public. The Commission is not, she argues, a determinedly pro-integrationist organization with closer union as its aim.

Excerpt

The study of the European Union (EU) has vacillated between being a vanguard for theoretical innovation and a feast for area specialists. The turn of the century has been a time of connecting these two worlds.

This book on preferences in the European Commission is written for both generalists and EU area specialists. For EU students, I explore the beliefs of decision makers at the heart of Europe about who should govern, how, and over whom. These questions have structured political competition in Europe's national states over the past century and a half. They now shape EU politics. Scholars have begun to map contestation among public, parties, and private interests. But how do office holders in the European Union's central executive and administrative body, the European Commission, conceive of European integration? What kind of European Union do top Commission officials want? Should the European Union be supranational or intergovernmental? Should it promote market liberalism or regulated capitalism? Should the Commission be an executive principal or an administrative/managerial agent? Should it be a consociational or a Weberian organization?

Between 1995 and 1997, I set up camp in Brussels in order to ask these people what they think of the integration of Europe. These 137 interviews constitute the empirical bedrock of this book. The leadership of the Commission holds diverse, not unitary views. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I find that top officials are divided as sharply as national parties, governments, and national publics. I show that the Commission does not succeed in shaping its employees' preferences, and this has much to do with the multi-level character of decision-making in the European Union. To understand Commission preferences one must understand how authority is exercised in the European Union.

This book is also written for generalists. Comprehending the forces that shape human preferences is the subject of intense debate in political science. I follow others in distinguishing between two basic contending theories of human motivation: a sociological paradigm that stresses how values shape preferences, and an economic paradigm that emphasizes . . .

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