Organising European Institutions of Governance: A Prelude to an Institutional Account of Political Integration

This paper outlines some theoretical and empirical tasks for an institutional account of European integration, focusing on the uneven development of an EU system of governance.

ARENA Working Paper 02/2000 (html)

Johan P. Olsen

For half a century, Europeans have (again) explored the possibility of new forms of political order and unity, this time by non-violent means and with comprehensive and possibly lasting changes in the institutions of governance. Accounting for the dynamics of political integration requires attention to four questions. First, what is meant by "political integration", and how are such processes to be conceptualised? Second, on what basis is the new polity - the European Union, as a political organisation and system of governance - being integrated? Third, what are the consequences of various levels and forms of integration? Fourth, what are the determinants of political integration and through what processes does change occur? This chapter is a prelude to answering such questions, drawing on an institutional perspective. It argues that a European specific agenda should be closely linked to more general theoretical issues. Furthermore, contrary to much conventional wisdom, it is argued that an institutional perspective implies a dynamic, not static, view of political life. Major sources of change are inherent in institutional ideals that are strived for but never reached, and in tensions and collisions caused by competing intra-institutional ideals and principles.

A later version of this article was published in H. Wallace (ed.) Interlocking Dimensions of European Integration, Houndmills: Palgrave.

Tags: institutionalism, governance, integration theory
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2016 8:55 PM