Comparative Federalism: The European Union and the United States in Comparative Perspective

By Anand Menon; Martin Schain | Go to book overview

2
The United States and the European
Union
Comparing Two Sui Generis
Systems

Alberta Sbragia

Can the study of both the EU and the United States be advanced by comparing the two? Does examination of one help us understand the other? The United States and the European Union display enough similarities and differences to accommodate both those who argue that comparison is futile and those who argue that it is necessary.

This chapter is based on the premise that, while both systems have typically been analyzed in a 'ghetto', comparing them, would advance the scholarship on both. While both are 'sui generis' in some ways, they look less like 'Fortress Europe' and 'Fortress America' when analyzed comparatively.

Such an approach does not ignore the problems confronting a rigorous comparison of the two systems. The United States is a full-fledged nationstate which has undergone over two centuries of development, suffered through a bloody Civil War which still marks the country's political geography, and is governed under the oldest written constitution in the world. Within the democratic world, it has the status of being a very old political system, and its citizens are known for their fierce sense of national identity.

The EU, by contrast, is not a nation-state, does not have an elected government, and is governed by treaties rather than a constitution. While it is an old regional institution in the world of regionalism, it is a young and still developing political system. Its democratic credentials are the subject of much debate, and it does not have much of either an

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