ARENA Working Papers
WP 99/1



Institutionalising a Big Idea: Identities, Interests and Moral Doubt Brought to Bear on the EMU

The Politics of Economic and Monetary Union, edited by Petri Minkkinen and Heikki Patom�ki, Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997 (241 pages),

This paper is a review essay forthcoming in Cooperation and Conflict

Bent Sofus Tranøy*
Department of Political Science, University of Oslo

1. Introduction

EMU is a truly epoch-making project, an experiment on a scale that almost defies comparison. Not just for the peoples and politicians of Europe, but also very much so for political science. Its re-emergence as an idea in the circles around Jacques Delors, its manifestation as a formal decision in the Maastricht treaty, and now its actual birth, provides political science with a near endless list of fundamental questions empirical and theoretical, positive and normative. Petri Minkkinen and Heikki Patom�ki's edited volume takes this challenge seriously. It contributes to our understanding of how interests, ideas and identities have clashed, coalesced and been transformed by the process towards EMU and beyond. This essay seeks to, within the confines of a review article, to provide an in-depth report and critical analysis of the many intriguing arguments made in this volume.

In order to better see what this volume has to offer, it can briefly be situated in its contemporary context. The years of 1997 and 1998, the two last before EMU became a reality, witnessed a plethora of books and edited volumes on the EMU. In an extremely useful overview Amy Verdun (1998), looks at 8 recent publications on the EMU, 7 of which are of academic interest and merit in her opinion. Three of these publications, including what is probably the best known and most widely used, the second edition of Gros and Thygesen's (1998) textbook, are categorised by Verdun as analysing the economics of EMU. This does not mean that they are not useful for political scientists, but it means that they do not really contribute to political science. Further there is a “concise history of European monetary integration (Ungerer 1997). Thus we are left with two books, excluding the one under review here, that seek to contribute to a political science agenda. Both have their distinctive features and particular merits.

Kathleen MacNamara's (1998) Currency of Ideas, takes an ideational approach in seeking to account for the evolution of monetary politics and policy in Europe. Substantively the book offers a coherent and well informed history of its subject (including monetary theory). In terms of political science theory, it speaks most directly to the sub-discipline of International Relations. This is evident in the choice of dependent variable (monetary co-operation) and its emphasis on state behaviour and the elites of the biggest and most powerful states. But most tellingly, the International Relations-framing shines through in the fact that the book develops its ideational argument in contrast to the Realism-Liberalism dichotomy that has dominated mainstream IR debate for a very long time now. Jones, Frieden and Torres' volume (1998) Joining Europe's Monetary Club. The Challenge for Smaller Member States, is, by contrast, more a contribution to comparative political economy. It is a series of case studies of how smaller member states have dealt with the EMU issue. Most of the arguments are couched in terms of societal interests and/or economic functionality.

Judged on their own terms, neither of these books are necessarily less successful as intellectual projects than Minkkinen and Patom�ki's effort. On the other hand, none of them are as rich in theoretical and substantive arguments, nor as forward looking as the present volume. Trying to abstract from this richness, we can say that two dominant common themes run through the politics of Economic and Monetary Union. If for reasons I will return to below, we overlook Paul Van Bempt's chapter, the book contains six substantive chapters. Three of these contributions (Risse, Marcussen and Gill) explore and utilise analytical tensions in the dichotomy between cognitive perspectives (i.e. ideas and interests) on the one hand versus (given) material interests and power on the other. The other theme explored is that of legitimacy. Teivainen, Patom�ki and Leander & Guzzini are all interested in the democratic legitimacy of institutions and policies of the EMU, although they vary in the degree to which they use an empirical (public opinion) and/or a theoretical (political theory) yardstick. I will discuss cognitive perspectives versus given interests and resources first, and then move on to the legitimacy issues next.

2. Identities, Ideas and Interests

In an exemplary chapter, at least as far as design goes, Engelmann, Knopf, Roscher & Risse, make one positive and one negative argument. The positive argument is that identities shared by political elites, partly expressed in visions of Europe, explain major European power's position on the EMU. They work from the premise that identities as “cognitive constructs” are lasting, and change only rarely. Building on social psychology, cultural sociology and historical institutionalism, they develop fairly specific expectations for how these identities shape policy making on Europe. These expectations are formulated as empirical questions which they can put to their data, questions such as: Which ideas about European Integration dominate the national discourse? Who or what constitutes “the other” to any given national identity? Do prevailing ideas of Europe and their inherent concepts of political order and identity, resonate with national institutions and the ideas embedded in them?

The negative argument that paves the way for this analysis, is the claim that explanations departing from what they call “traditional” approaches are inadequate for the task of accounting for variation in attitudes towards the EMU among the political elites of Germany, France and Great Britain. These “traditional approaches” are sweepingly described as departing from either economic interests or “balance of power considerations”. This type of analysis cannot - so the authors claim - explain why Germany and France has supported the EMU all along: Why have the socialist parties in these countries not taken a stand against its austerity inducing consequences or why has Great Britain opted out? In sum they argue that the two types of interest based accounts at best gives rise to indeterminacy in the cases of Great Britain and France, while “Germany should definitely not join EMU on these grounds” (p. 107).

Germany, they claim, has no reason to substitute the Bundesbank which dominates the EMS, for a supranational Central Bank. They also point out that since German exporters and importers conduct most of their business in Deutsche Marks anyway, there is little to gain from EMU in terms of reduced transaction costs. And finally, even with the Stability pact in place Germany has reason to fear for its cherished tradition of tight macro-economic policies. [1] The positive, identity based argument for Germany is equally easy to follow. The most important “other” in German national identity is the aggressive, nationalist Germany of the two world wars. This has led Germans to take European integration as a means to secure both wealth and peace. I read the authors as saying that what we see here is more than just European institutions resonating well with German ideas of political governance; it is a case of European Integration being part of the German vision of political order. This is so much taken for granted by the German political class, that even politicians that oppose the EMU have to make do with insisting on strict appliance of the convergence criteria, rather than coming out in outright opposition.

Applying their version of economic interest reasoning to Great Britain, the authors claim that London should have supported the EMU. Firstly because of the neoliberal orientation of British policy and secondly because Great Britain wants to be a central location for non-European multinationals that want access to the single market. Here the authors might have added that London also wants to remain an international financial centre, but they don't. The counter argument that leaves the British case indetermined, is, according to Risse et al., that by retaining the pound Great Britain also preserve the possibility of engaging in competitive devaluations during recessions. When the Pound was blown out of the ERM in September 1992, this did give the British economy relief from the pressure of high interest rates, but this was a politically unsolicited relief. Reactions to the “humiliation” of “Black Wednesday” testify to that. Given the widely held view that devalutations provides an inflationary impulse and imposes future risk premiums on interest rates because it undermines the confidence of international investors, it is debatable how attractive this option is to either “New” Labour or the Conservatives. Since Smith and then Blair took over the leadership of Labour, these parties are not spectacularly different in their approach to managing the economy. On the other hand, Britain did not experience the predicted surge in inflation in the aftermath of the 1992 debacle.

Also, there is a similar but more subtle argument against British membership in the EMU. This had not yet been developed for political purposes when the chapter in question was written. This says that the British business cycle is “out of sync” with the major continental economies, so that when Great Britain needs a relaxation of monetary policy the continentals need a tougher stance and vice versa. [2] In operational terms this does not translate into a British desire to return to the role of a devaluing country, but it might very well mean to continue steering their monetary policy towards an inflation target, and let the exchange rate to a large degree be determined in the market. On balance then, I have suggested minor modifications to some of their arguments, but I have not been able to rock Risse et. al's conclusion that the British case is indeterminate. There is no reason to pick a fight with their interest-based analysis of the British case.

Their positive argument for applying an identity based analysis of the British case is also convincing. In Britain, the dominant idea of Europe is that of a “Europe of nation-states” (p. 111). Primarily this entails a free-trade area that should be developed and maintained by intergovernmental means. This sits well with British notions of “the other”, which is continental Europe. The authors claim that a remark Churchill made in 1953 “we are with Europe, but not of it...” (p. 113), is still valid for a majority of the British. A famous Fleet street headline “Storm in the channel, the continent cut off”, springs to this readers mind. The authors also point out that history has given the British an identity which means supporting free-trade, but accepting neither market intervention from, or a transfer of decision making capacity to Brussels (or anywhere else that is not Whitehall).

Turning to the interest based analysis of the French case, it is less clear why this should be judged as indeterminate before the identity analysis sets in. Risse et al. do not, in my opinion, convince us that French elite support for the EMU remain a puzzle after running through their interest based analysis. What they say is that motives such as containing German power, and sharing Central Bank power rather than merely submitting to the Bundesbank in Monetary matters, are factors that predict French support for the EMU. The convergence criteria are also useful in that they legitimise “necessary” budget cuts. To rescue their indeterminacy conclusion, Risse et al. say that 3 of these arguments can be turned on their heads: Realists would say that supranational institutions do not really contain super-powers. Further it can be ventured that Germany will dominate decisions in the EMU anyway, and that the loss of monetary independence in the EMU will be greater than in the EMS. To this reader these counter-arguments are not convincing. If you really want to be able to dismiss a cost-benefit type of argument from your analysis, it is not sufficient to prove that all arguments can be contested in one way or another. Of course they can. We have no objective measuring rod, but some attempt at a careful weighing up of the factors included in the analysis must be made.

If we do this we see that the interest based arguments against French support for the EMU do not hold: First of all, if realism in its pragmatic French guise, e.g. as practised by French politicians, was as dismissive of supranational institutions as the American academic methods-driven brand Risse et. al invoke, we would have a problem explaining the existence of EEC/EU itself, let alone the EMU. Further it is crucial to realise (and the authors themselves argue this in the section where they assemble interest based arguments that predict French support) that seen from Paris the EMU is the lesser of two evils. To fully appreciate this we must differentiate between real and formal independence. On a formal level membership in the EMU is obviously a more dramatic step than remaining in the EMS. But if we ask what level of real monetary independence the EMS has offered France since Mitterand decided to stick with it in 1983, even at the cost of his famous U-turn, the rank order might be overturned. This seems even more probable if we look at what the French achieved in the haggling over the first governorship of the ECB. This last point might not be entirely fair to bring in. Admittedly, machinations over the position flourished after Riise et. al wrote their chapter. Still, it is not my impression that this political in-fighting surprised seasoned observers of the EU.

The weakness of the authors' case in arguing for interest based indeterminacy has its mirror image in their positive, identity based argument. Risse et. al do observe that the federalist vision of Europe underpinning the EMU resonates well with ideas on Europe in two of France's three major political parties, the UDF and the PS respectively. So far so good. But then the authors run into trouble. First of all they abandon part of their own analytical scheme, in as much as they do not pursue the issue of who or what constitutes “the other” in the French case. This leaves the rest of the analysis with less secure foundations. The next task they undertake is to examine the fit between French notions of monetary and macroeconomic policy in general on the one hand and the notions of economic governance embedded in the EMU on the other. To this reader the conclusion here is a foregone affair. The French lost major battles regarding institutional design at Maastricht, and thus the identity based argument does not take the authors very far in explaining French support. Risse et. al then try to make amends by pointing to how some French EMU supporters harbour visions of EMU as a vehicle for reinforcing ideas stemming from the enlightenment and the French revolution, “France as the first nation state”, on a European level. But the link between the EMU on the one hand and these ideas on the other is too tenuous to carry an identity argument through.

Maybe the identity argument could have been rescued if the authors had taken on the issue of “the other”. This would have meant declaring that France's most significant other is Germany and that fear of this other is fundamental to French identity. Further, that the now taken-for-granted way this fear has been dealt with since the inception of the EEC has been to seek an institutional lock-in, stopping short of only of institutional fusion? But then again, identifying “the other” most constitutive to French identity is no simple task. An argument could be made that historically its Great Britain, and since DeGaulle the French have been known to harbour serious grievances over the existence and exercise of American hegemonic power too. So perhaps the line of argument I suggested above should be supplemented by an extra French motive. Not only to they want tie up Germany, they also want to pool resources with the enemy they fear most, in order to be more independent of a friend (the USA) that irritate them even more?

Leaving aside this amateur's attempt at identity based analysis, the main point is that as the identity argument now stands, the conclusion presented in the introduction - that all three major powers' position can be accounted for by means of an identity based analysis - does not flow from the premises introduced in the study of France. In my opinion they argue much more successfully for their approach in the German and British cases. Still, as Meatloaf reminds us, “two out of three aint bad”.

Martin Marcussen's contribution is also developed within the cognitive perspectives -material interest dichotomy. In contrast to Risse et. al he is more interested in ideas in the shape of economic orthodoxy and not in ideas of national identity. Historically he takes a further step backwards and looks at pre-Maastricht developments that helped facilitate and shape this agreement. He raises three questions that speak to different stages of the policy cycle of ideas. These stages cover what he calls ideational shifts, transfer or dissemination of new ideas and finally, institutionalisation of them. The main part of the contribution is focused on the second issue, and I will restrict my comments to this part of his discussion. What Marcussen sets out to do is to explain why relevantly similar countries such as The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden differed in the speed and intensity with which they adapted to the reigning economic orthodoxy of sound money, sound (public) finances and sound inflation. His argument is that this hinges on the degree of convergence between what he interchangeably calls “domestic institutions” or “transfer mechanisms” on the one hand and the before mentioned economic orthodoxy on the other. These underlying domestic institutions are operationalised in four empirical dimensions: a) The financial sector's degree of involvement in the industrial sector, b) the strength of social contracts, c) the central bank's degree of independence and d) the degree to which the country is exposed to the international (read German) economy.

His initial “finding” is that the Netherlands went fastest and least reluctantly along the road prescribed by the new orthodoxy, with Sweden at the other end of the spectrum and Denmark somewhere in-between. This is then explained by pointing to the score of the three cases along the dimensions given by his theory (which is based on a contribution from Epstein and Schor 1995). A methodological purist would say that his analysis suffers from an overdetermination problem. A more case oriented scholar might say that he does not explore the theoretical potential for conjunctural causation which his design and the configuration of values on the variables invites. But on a superficial level at least, the analysis seems to hold water. He knows his cases and marshals the evidence in such a way that the general pattern supports the theoretical propositions. Still, there are weaknesses. The first is that in spite of all he himself says about the importance of studying the impact of ideas, his analysis does not really engage the cognitive level. What Marcussen looks at are structural preconditions for receptivity towards a certain idea (and this argument is in turn founded on a logic of economic interests and imperatives). He does not conceptualise transfer mechanisms as processes, even though he repeatedly speaks of his interest in the dissemination of ideas. And there is more than semantics involved here: There is nothing about the learning process that might lead to a demand for new ideas, on the struggle to establish hegemony over agendas or on the agents that develop new economic ideas. He speaks of the importance of professional economists in the introductory section, but the activities of this profession on international arenas and in domestic institutions is not followed up in the empirical section. In reality then, he ends up with a fairly traditional political economy exercise based on a logic of economic interests and imperatives, driven forward by a crude correlational logic without any attention paid to the political processes that transform interests or ideas into political action. The ideas element is an add-on, rather than an integrated part of the analysis.

The second weakness is typical of the kind of interest-based approach this actually is. As Risse et al.'s contribution reminds us, these perspectives often yield contradictory expectations. It is inherently difficult to predict interests from structure. The clearest example in Marcussen's contribution concerns the interest of industrial versus financial capital. He claims that financial institutions want a low inflation environment. Industry on the other hand is more concerned with domestic demand. Hence he predicts that financial institutions will be advocates for the new orthodoxy unless they are closely linked to industry through share ownership and/or long term lending. This might hold true for a large, relatively closed economy with a well developed market for securities and arms-length corporate governance traditions like those of the USA. In a small export oriented economy organised like Sweden's one could argue that post-war history tells us otherwise. Until the mid-eighties Swedish industry was deeply immersed in a system of wage-determination which had minimising wage-inflation as its main goal. To remain competitive Swedish industry took a direct interest in domestic inflation levels. Swedish banks on the other hand were regulated in such a manner that it could be argued that they gained from inflation. Periods of high inflation secured low real post tax interest rates directly and indirectly through bracket-creep which in turn made tax breaks on interest rates more valuable. Thus it could be said that an inflationary environment contributed to the a high demand for credit, and it raised the value of the state-subsidy of their product, and as such stimulated the business of the banks.

In fact, it could be argued that internal contradictions in this mode of credit regulation directed the attention of central bankers towards the promises of neo-liberalism. The Swedish Central bank's lack of independence was probably a spur for its leadership to explore neo-liberal ideas which promised greater - if not German style - independence. Thus another of Marcussens propositions can be turned on its head. If he had explored processes of learning within central banks he might have found that the most aggressive advocates of neo-liberalism were to be found amongst the more unhappy dependent central banks, not among the more independent banks (which is what he expected), who in my view, perhaps had more reason to be content. This perspective might help us understand why (West)Germany even under Kohl, or German economists for that matter, never converted to neo-liberalism with the fervour of, say, their Swedish counterparts.

Stephen Gill's contribution is more of an essay and less of a traditional attempt to answer a limited number of questions by systematically confronting historical data with his expectations. It contains one part that deals with the coming and support of the EMU and another part that analyses the components of an emerging (but not yet coherent) ideology that he terms “the new constitutionalism. In a style that sometimes borders on what one might term declaratory neo-Marxism, he argues that the EMU is part of a wider transformation away from embedded liberalism towards a more pure form of market economy. This process, he claims, is being driven forward by the “twin pressures of persistent fiscal crisis and new global patterns of capital accumulation - production and consumption patterns” (p. 210). The political transformation is further held to be backed up by a shift in societal interests

...a larger rentier block of interests that includes both affluent workers as well as broader segments of the middle classes, as well as the interests of haute finance and internationally mobile capital...(p. 210)

This argument is not pure historical materialism. Rather than assuming that such a constellation of interests automatically produces the EMU, it is argued that this state of affairs makes it possible for the political elites behind the EMU to appeal to (a tacit?) cross class alliance (or in Gill's Gramscian language; a historical block). Gill wraps up his essay by laying out some elements of what he holds to be viable social democratic/progressive counter strategy to the spread of the new constitutionalism.

3. Legitimacy

As indicated in the introduction, we can distinguish between works that approach issues of legitimacy empirically (do people find this kind of institution and policy legitimate or does it undermine the authority of the polity) and those who apply principles derived from political theory as their measuring rod. Teivo Teivainen's chapter falls mostly into the latter category. In his essay “The Independence of The European Central Bank: Implications for Democratic Governance”, he develops his critical appraisal from three angles. Firstly he argues that even if we share the neo-liberal desire of giving price stability primacy as a political goal, and given that we accept the underlying theory that posits a strong positive relationship between insulated central banks and an economy's inflation performance, it may still be desirable to limit the constitutionalisation of this insulation. Economic circumstances and economic doctrines change. As Teivainen quips, not to take into account that there may one day be a solid majority that wants to change the arrangements of the ECB, is to put “...a rather firm faith in the end-of-history argument”. He accepts that the point of providing constitutional protection for certain values is to make change difficult and time consuming. Still, as he points out, constitutional reasoning normally builds on a notion of qualified majorities and ratios like two-thirds and three-quarters are in common usage. In the case of the ECB the decision rule for performing significant surgery on its set-up is unanimity. Every member state has veto power. This increases the chances of a future change being achieved through realpolitik, rather than through constitutional procedures. In turn this would serve to undermine, not strengthen, rule of law at the European level.

Teivonen's second angle is to suggest seeing the opposed insulation of European Monetary policy from democratic politics as part of a wider trend. He applies a metaphor that he admits is speculative, but nonetheless suggestive. He speaks of a monarchization of democracy. This means that in the same way that European monarchies over the last centuries have been gradually emptied of real decision making authority, democracy could be on its way towards performing only decorative functions. His third main argument is that there is a trade-off between independence and accountability. To appreciate this point one needs to operate a distinction between goal- and instrument- independence respectively. The point is that it is easier to achieve accountability if the inflation target is made explicit after negotiations between politicians and central bankers (lower level of goal independence) and if provisions for removing the bank's leadership in case of performance failure is in place. None of these provisions are made in the TEU, while New Zealand's often lauded institutionalisation of Central Bank independence features both.

Teivonen pursues all his points in a clear style. His arguments are well informed, they are nuanced and convincing. In short, he provides an excellent illustration of his own point that it is important to “at least partially transgress” the intellectual division of labour between matters “political” and matters “economic”. His lines of attack do not, however, exhaust the potential for a democratic discourse on central bank independence. At least two important tasks that to my knowledge, have not received serious academic attention remain. The first is to probe deeper into the economic-theoretical underpinnings of the idea of central bank independence. The second is to explore further how central bank independence can be defended by political theory.

The point of probing the economic-theoretical fundament would be that the idea's claim to make legitimate prescriptions for institutional reform diminishes if there are serious doubts about the plausibility of its causal underpinnings. An example of issues that should be examined more closely is whether the mono-causal logic inherent in the argument is sufficient. Arguments of the kind suggested by Hall (1994), and developed most recently by Hall and Franzese (1998) and Iversen (1998) indicate that the effect of central bank independence on inflation performance is better understood as an interaction effect with the system of wage determination, and not as an effect that can be expected to occur independently of institutional context. A second point of entry here could be the critique which has been raised towards the theory that there is such a thing as a given, natural rate of unemployment. If on the other hand, this rate is influenced by historical employment performance (through people dropping permanently out of the labour market) this could and should dampen toleration for using (increases in) unemployment (brought on by monetary policy) as a mechanism for controlling inflation. The motive for exploring political theory further is to ask the following type of question: Do the arguments that secure a broad consensus for constitutonalising other demands and rights in a society (i.e. freedom of speech, of congress and so on) really apply to the demand for a low inflation environment? Or if they (as I suspect) don't, what other type of normative defence might be erected?

Anna Leander and Stefano Guzzini, as befits former students of the late Susan Strange, take a Polanyi inspired perspective. They investigate how present European market building co-causes welfare state retrenchment which in turn create a politics of resentment that endangers the legitimacy of both nation states and the European project. Their work is both historically informed and forward looking and it balances Teivonen's effort nicely in that it is more concerned with causal than normative theory. More specifically they argue that that the EMU is exacerbating a trend towards welfare state retrenchment because it represents the completion of the internal market and thus facilitates fiscal and social dumping. The authors take on board that a main finding in recent research on the European welfare state is that it has so far held up surprisingly well. In light of the multiple pressures of ageing populations, accumulated public debts, legitimacy problems related to abuse, and perverse incentive structures as well as the globalisation of capital, welfare state cut backs have been smaller than many social scientists “initially” expected. Thus one can interpret their argument as seeing the EMU as the “last straw” that might finally break the back of the welfare state.

Leander and Guzzini note that scant progress has been made in efforts to offset the negative impact the EMU already has had - through the convergence criteria - and will have, on social contracts in the member states through the creation of Europe wide social and tax policy. There are many reasons for this, but a central one is the institutional structure built up around these issue areas. In the case of social policy for instance, the Social Protocol divides up issues of possible EU-legislation in such a manner that it opens the door for legal disputes over which category any given issue falls into. In spite of their negative diagnosis Leander and Guzzini manage to come out at the other end with a tempered optimism. Looking at the prospects for social policy to be developed at the European level, they note several factors that point in this direction. Firstly, the hegemony of neo-liberal thought appears to be waning. [3] It has now been dominant for 20 years without delivering the goods (of which lower unemployment must be considered the most important delivery failure). Secondly, as welfare state cutbacks now move towards provisions closer to the core, and thus hurt larger social groups in tougher ways, the old strategy of the political class of blaming the EU for necessary adjustments, but still saving core rights at the national level, is less viable. What the authors call a revision of social contracts becomes more urgent, also for the political class in a context of increasing social unrest and the rise of right-wing populism. Finally the progress of EMU itself has also contributed to shifting the thinking of national (social)policy makers towards the European level. If we leave aside the problems associated with identifying exactly where tolerance for cut backs is likely to be exhausted - breaking points in history are notoriously difficult to recognise in advance - Leander and Guzzini's analysis comes across as a thoughtful and learned piece of qualified optimism. [4]

Heikki Patom�ki's effort on “legitimation problems in the European Union” starts out by exploring the limitations of what we might call aggregation models of public opinion based legitimacy - that is, the measurement of individual, pre-existing opinions aggregated through polling, referendums or elections. Drawing on a range of theories from basic methodology to post-structural theories of meaning making, he finds that such models can be attacked on all their constituent parts: Measurement is vulnerable to variation in the phrasing of questions and context, aggregation opens up questions of representativity and how to stratify the respondents. Further operating with assumptions of public opinion as pre-existing and reducible to individual opinions take no account of meaning making as a fundamentally time-dependent and social process.

Taking account of all these insights when trying to better evaluate the legitimacy of the EMU in particular and the EU in general, the complexity Patom�ki confronts is overwhelming:

...trying to scrutinize the multiple layerings of historical, complex, contradictory and complementary determinations which give rise to actors' attitudes and opinions, we have to remember that there are always the possibilities of overlapping, intersecting, condensing, elongated, divergent, convergent and also contradictory causal processes and spatio-temporalities. (p.200).

One reading of Patom�ki is that this state of affairs leaves us with no other option than relying on our “practical-political judgement”, as a method, although this judgement should no doubt in his opinion be informed and refined by sensitivity to the sources of complexity listed above. It is hard to do justice to an argument like Patom�ki's, but one way of summarising his practical-political judgement is this: He notes that the EU at present is nearly exclusively sought legitimated through functionalist and Hobbesian arguments. Drawing on Weber and Habermas he claims that the legitimacy of a given political order is also a question of whether and why this order deserves the allegiance of its members. It is a question of normative validity. The “old” political order of post world war II nation states drew normative validity by presenting itself as based upon values such as “self-determination, democracy, peoples sovereignty and redistributive justice or welfare performance” (p.201). I believe that what Patom�ki is saying is that in this perspective, the EU has a long way to go.

Paul Van den Bempt's chapter does not sit easily with the rest of the book. The author has a long career in the Commission behind him and we are informed that he is now an honorary Director General of the Commission (whatever that means), in addition to being a senior research fellow with a think tank in Brussels. His contribution is very aptly titled “The view from Brussels”, and as such it can be said to perform two functions. Firstly, on a rhetorical level, it seems to represent the official line so well that it could be considered primary data for textually oriented social scientists. Secondly, on a factual level, it serves as a very useful introduction to the topic. But social science in the sense of providing a critical analysis of the causes behind a phenomenon this is not.

4. Parting thoughts

In sum this book is different enough from what is otherwise available on the market to be interesting and good enough to be worth buying. Some of the chapters are more original and convincing than the others. Teivonen's chapter on legitimacy and the ECB is most difficult to disagree with because it presents a wise and moderate moral doubt which resonates well with widely held democratic values. Teivonen's achievement lies in demonstrating that the values he appeals to apply to this case, thus he succeeds in transferring his lingering normative scepticism to the reader. A complex causal argument like the one Risse et. al commits themselves to is always easier to disagree with, but no less stimulating. Patom�kis own contribution is most difficult to understand because it is so complex in both logical structure and style. Still, if one has the time, it is well worth spending it trying to penetrate his chapter.

In his preface, Heikki Patom�ki, states that this is an “up-to-date” and “compact”, “yet extensive book”. Is he right on all counts when making such an immodest claim? To the degree that a book published within the procedures of academic publishing can be up-to-date, it seems to me that this book is. I have found neither factual errors nor obvious omissions as regards events and facts. It is also compactly edited, in the sense that each piece does not waste space unduly, and as should be clear by now, the book lives up to its self description of being extensive. This quality deserves one last reflection:

I began this review by pointing out that the EMU coming into being raises a near endless list of analytical challenges for political science. Letting this influence one's editorship is at the same time an obstacle to parsimony. One could even say it makes parsimony less desirable since many important questions are easily sidelined if one pursues this academic value too single-mindedly. On a meta level however, it is easier to find commonalties between the chapters of this book. One such characteristic common to all the contributions (except for Van den Bempt), is that of a more or less tempered scepticism to the EMU. These authors are not writing in the quasi-deterministic fashion sometimes favoured by Americans seeking methodological stringency, or politicians seeking to justify their choices through concealing the element of choice. This book is instead marked by a willingness to raise the fundamental questions as if “we” had a choice. It follows from their constructivist agenda that they even harbour ambitions of contributing to this choice by reflecting on problems and options.


* The author wishes to thank Sjur Kasa, Ulf Sverdrup, Dag Harald Claes and two anonymous referees for their constructive comments.

[1] On the other hand interdependence came with a price in the EMS too. With the Deutsche Mark, Germany alone has to shoulder the burden of carrying an international currency.

[2] This is the argument Tony Blair's Labour government actually used (hid behind some would say), when it decided to postpone a decision on joining until after the next general election.

[3] The reader should be reminded that this observation was made at a time when none of the major states of the EU had social democratic prime ministers.

[4] The authors hint at this problem. As self professed institutionalists working from a notion of path-dependency, they admit they least of all posses a “crystal ball”.


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[Date of publication in the ARENA Working Paper series: 15.01.1999]