The History of the European Union: Origins of a Trans- and Supranational Polity 1950-72

By Wolfram Kaiser; Brigitte Leucht et al. | Go to book overview

12   Interdisciplinarity in research
on the EU
Politics, history and prospects
for collaboration

Alex Warleigh-Lack

European Union (EU) studies is going through a period of self-examination and change. From a political science perspective,1 the boundaries between the ‘European’, the ‘national’ and indeed the ‘global’ are increasingly blurred, meaning that the separation of the study of politics into separate boxes labelled with such titles as ‘comparative politics’, ‘public administration’, or ‘International Relations’ is decreasingly viable. For political science scholars of the EU, this is generating new opportunities as well as fresh challenges: equipped for many years now to examine the politics of transnational and supranational spaces and processes, we are in a position to contribute positively to the debates around global governance in International Relations (IR) scholarship – a reversal of the traditional hierarchy.2 And yet, political science studies of the EU are also lacking in certain respects. As political science scholars of the EU we have often shut ourselves away from colleagues in other areas of politics, and our engagement with salient material from other disciplines inside the domain of EU studies is not always as deep or as insightful as it might be.3 Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate in the field regarding the best way of going beyond the orthodox focus: a ‘normal science’ movement seeks to replicate in EU political studies the norms of positivist United States (US) political science, whereas an interdisciplinary movement seeks to reach out to a range of disciplines and sub-disciplines in order to generate a holistic perspective.4

In this chapter I want to contribute to this debate by examining the potential for interdisciplinary cooperation between historians and political scientists in EU studies, a kind of partnership which could be far more fruitful than has so far been the case.5 My default position is that this would be very productive for scholars in both disciplines, even if it is likely to be difficult and to generate risks as well as benefits. The chapters included in this volume serve to demonstrate that such collaboration can be very fruitful. They also remind us of the usefulness of qualitative forms of research – a helpful corrective to the Americanisation of political studies in the United Kingdom (UK) and elsewhere in Europe.

An engagement by political scientists with such EU historiography as that to be found here – theoretically informed, source-rich and analytical, aiming for the middle-range rather than the particular – would help us ensure our theoretical claims are sufficiently grounded in evidence and not faddish expressions of ‘presentism’. From a positivist perspective – such as Andrew Moravcsik’s – it could

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