Research Methods in European Union Studies
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Research Methods in European Union Studies

K. Lynggaard, I. Manners, K. Löfgren, K. Lynggaard, I. Manners, K. Löfgren

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eBook - ePub

Research Methods in European Union Studies

K. Lynggaard, I. Manners, K. Löfgren, K. Lynggaard, I. Manners, K. Löfgren

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This collection sets a new agenda for conducting research on the EU and learns from past mistakes. In doing so it provides a state-of-the-art examination of social science research designs in EU studies while providing innovative guidelines for the advancement of more inclusive and empirically sensitive research designs in EU studies

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Part I
Crossroads in European Union Studies
Kennet Lynggaard, Karl Löfgren and Ian Manners
Aims and ambitions
EU studies is at a crossroads where the many disciplinary interests in Europe meet, as well as temporally where the past weaknesses of methodology meet the future challenges of a new research agenda on Europe. These weaknesses emanate from a number of traditional research design dichotomies in EU studies:
Research ontology. Do we approach our research through rationalist or constructivist assumptions about EU affairs?
Research epistemology. Is our ultimate knowledge ambition to formulate explanatory theories capturing EU affairs? Or is our research a process of conceptual (re)constructions aimed at understanding EU affairs?
Research methodology. Do we best capture EU affairs through positivist and deductive research strategies, or through interpretative and inductive processes?
Research methods. Do we prefer quantitative or qualitative research methods and data?
We need to deal with, and seek to overcome, such traditional dichotomies to meet the future challenges of a new research agenda on Europe. Scholars within EU studies have thus become increasingly preoccupied with epistemological issues when conducting research on EU affairs (for discussions, see Manners, 2003; Jupille, 2006). The increased prominence of research on Europeanisation since the 1990s and, though less visible in terms of impact, comparative regionalism perhaps since the mid-2000s, seems to have brought to the fore a scholarly interest in developing more explicit and systematic research strategies, designs and methods within EU studies. The renewed interest in research methodology is largely based on the assumption that research on EU affairs may gain further from drawing on analytical strategies and research methods derived from across the social sciences. The complexity of EU affairs calls for research methods known from a number of disciplines and for the further development of cross- or transdisciplinary research designs (e.g. Manners, 2009; McGowan, 2009; Warleigh, 2004). EU studies may in fact be considered as a research area which has been particularly prone to cross-disciplinary dialogue (Rosamond, 2006). And not least, the actual European integration process has now reached a point where more wide-ranging research strategies, designs and methods are needed. This gives reason for stressing the scientific ideal of holism – not necessarily opposed to, yet different from, emphasising, for instance, model building and parsimony.
The argument of this book is therefore that research strategies, designs and methods from across the social sciences can, and should, be applied in research directed at EU affairs. Against this backdrop, the purpose of this volume is threefold:
• to provide a state-of-the-art examination of social science research designs in EU studies;
• to provide innovative guidelines for the advancement of research designs in EU studies;
• to move the study of EU research beyond the dichotomies of the past towards a new agenda for research on Europe.
Research methodology is understood as a concern with research strategies, designs and methods. The focus is thus on the principles and procedures guiding research designs and on the research techniques used for specific research purposes. This volume essentially addresses the ‘how to study … ’ questions in EU studies. The questions asked are: how do we conduct research into EU affairs? How can the broader social sciences contribute to the advancement of research designs in EU studies? And how can we move beyond the traditional research dichotomies in EU studies?
Characteristics and challenges in EU studies
EU studies has perhaps, more than any other sub-discipline, been acutely aware of the too-many-variables-too-few-cases, or the so-called ‘n=1 problem’ (Hix, 2005). This awareness has been present right from the earliest and defining research addressing European integration, which was indeed very much aware of, on the one hand, the exceptionality, or sui generis, of the research object and, on the other hand, the academic desire for comparative cases.
It could be argued that the economic and political integration that took place in Europe during the 1950s, most notably within the European Coal and Steel Community, but also in the Nordic Council and the Council of Europe, should be compared with integrative processes in the United Nations, the Americas, the Eastern Bloc, or even the Nasserian collaboration between the Arab states. Alternatively, it could be compared with historically remote eras such as the Carolingian Empire or the Ming Dynasty (Haas, 1961). With varying emphases, such comparisons demonstrate that the political and economic integration in Europe entails a number of unique economic, institutional and social characteristics, making comparisons extraordinarily challenging. This has, however, not prevented EU scholars from looking for more suitable comparative cases and conducting various types of comparisons.
Since the 1990s, many EU scholars have abandoned the approach of studying the EU as an international organisation and instead turned to comparing EU affairs with national political, economic, social and legal processes and systems in both the EU member-states and states outside of the EU. Recently, perhaps since the mid-2000s, we have also seen a revived trend towards comparative regional integration studies, including comparisons of the European integration with other integrative projects such as North American Free Trade Agreement, Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Mercado Común del Sur (i.e. the Southern common market) in South America (Laursen, 2003; Warleigh, 2006).
One can argue that the uniqueness of European integration, or indeed EU studies, puts EU studies in an exclusive position to both carry research designs known from the social science disciplines into EU studies, but also to return the favour by inventing novel research approaches in the social sciences. Again, EU studies appears to be in a favourable position particularly regarding the development of more cross- and transdisciplinary research methods that may find use in other areas of study, such as comparative regional integration and international politics. In fact the rise of the Europeanisation research agenda seems, at least in part, to have involved a revival of the study of EU affairs among political scientists, legal scholars and economists otherwise mainly interested in national political systems, law and economics. To be sure, the point is not whether, or possibly to what extent, the research object of EU studies represents an n=1 problem. Our point is that the acute awareness of the n=1 problem makes EU studies a research area suitable for innovative research designs. If anything, the awareness of this defining characteristic of EU studies has become even more pronounced over time. At the same time, the advancement of more inclusive and empirically sensitive research designs directed at the study of EU affairs gives rise to a number of empirical, theoretical and methodological challenges.
Empirical challenges
One aim of this book is to contribute to the development of cross- and transdisciplinary research methodologies based on the acknowledgment that such research approaches are needed in the undertaking of generating more ample knowledge of EU affairs. In that sense, the preference given to cross- and transdisciplinary research strategies, designs and methods is essentially based on an empirical argument.
Developments in EU affairs over the past 20–30 years have increased the need for cutting across disciplinary lines. European integration has proceeded in terms of legal, political, economic and social integration. For instance, in legal terms, several treaty revisions and, most recently, the Lisbon Treaty, have expanded the jurisdiction and the competence of EU institutions. New political institutions have seen the light of day including a wide range of independent agencies (Borrás et al., 2007). EU institutional actors have also been subject to massive changes in terms of composition and competences – for example the European Parliament and the European Commission. Economic integration has taken place most notably through the establishment of the internal market and the European Monetary Union including the institutional innovation of the European Central Bank. Similarly Europe has also experienced integration in terms of the development of European societal identities. It would be wrong to claim that national loyalties and identities have been transferred to Europe in any all-embracing and straightforward manner as early theorisations of European integration would lead us to expect. However, multiple identities have developed among European citizens including ‘feelings of belonging’, not only to national and local communities, but also to Europe. This is particularly so among European elites (Checkel and Katzenstein, 2009). On top of the ‘deepening’ of European integration, we have also seen a ‘widening’ of the EU since the early 1980s, where the number of EU member-states has grown from nine to 28, a growth we have almost certainly not seen the end of.
With European integration also follows two other significant real world developments pushing for a departure from research strategies, designs and methods derived from a single social science discipline. The EU has growing importance for both global and national political, social, economic and legal matters. The significant empirical insights gained on the implications of European integration in national political and economic systems have, since the end of the 1990s, provided us with two important lessons. First, European integration is rarely the sole source of change in national societies (Lynggaard, 2011). Second, the implications of European integration are not confined to any one societal arena and expand, for instance, into judicial systems, public policies and administration, economic policies and state–civil society relationships (Ladrech, 2010; Graziano and Vink, 2007). In the global arena, the implications of European integration also transcend academic disciplines. Think of the involvement of the EU in one of the most pressing global issues for the past ten years: climate change. The nature of EU’s involvement in global climate change issues clearly transcends the classical disciplines of economics, legal studies, international politics, comparative politics, sociology and public policy.
This development does not mean that we suggest that European integration is a linear integration process towards an ever closer union. Our point is that integration has proceeded in Europe and none of the mentioned aspects of European integration have taken place independently of each other. And we need to cross and transcend disciplinary lines to appreciate these developments.
Theoretical challenges
Theoretically, we wish to transcend the divides between frameworks directed at either international and domestic practices. Furthermore, we wish to go beyond the theoretical literatures often associated with particular social science disciplines such political science, economics, legal studies, sociology and history. Overall, we can identify a couple of important challenges in EU studies that surpass our standard disciplinary frameworks.
First, many of the political science approaches to EU studies, such as comparative politics, international relations and public policy, maintain sharp distinctions between their theoretical approaches, and there is a tendency within the monodisciplinary approaches to only include empirical problems which fit their own ‘paradigms’. Consequently, the international relations tradition tends to emphasise the role of intergovernmental negotiations, the comparative politics tradition the ‘state-like’ characteristics of the EU (Warleigh-Lack and Rosamond, 2010), while traditional domestic public policy research tends to treat the EU as some vague external factor affecting national public administrations and policies.
Second, the exclusive character of the design of EU’s institutions, including the rare checks-and-balance system between the actors, and the often technocratic decision-making processes challenge our traditional perceptions of a democratic system. While it is increasingly difficult to maintain a distinction, for example, between legal and political issues and between political and economic issues within national political systems, these distinctions are close to indivisible in the EU system.
Third, although there is always a tension between analytical, normative and prescriptive tensions in all fields of social science, this tension is possibly more present and explicit in the field of EU studies. The text-book distinction between policy analyst and policy advocate is quite blurred within EU studies. The academic analytical work is very close to the actual everyday practice of the policy actors, and vice versa; the community of EU policy analysts has to a large extent adopted the cognitive and normative discourse of the academic community.
Methodological challenges
A number of the well-known methodological divides within the social sciences can also be identified within EU studies. These divides are probably most clearly exposed in the rationalist/constructivist paradigmatic dispute, which was widely used to characterise two conflicting approaches to EU studies in the 1990s. What became clear, as the 1990s came to an end, was that rationalist and constructivist approaches were supplying complementary perceptions of EU affairs, rather than representing two fundamentally adversarial schools of thought. The 2000s have thus been characterised by reconciliation and bridge building attempts, often by means of collective research endeavours in the shape of edited collections (Schneider and Aspinwall, 2001; Checkel, 2007), special issues (Jupille et al., 2003; Rittberger and Stacey, 2003) or ‘forum discussion’ (Checkel and Moravcsik, 2001). Yet, regardless of the good intentions, most often reconciliation meant a submission of selected constructivist research themes under a rationalist research paradigm.
A second divide appears between hypothetical-deductive (theoretically driven) and analytical-inductive (empirically driven) research purposes. On the one hand we find basic methodological set-ups which theoretically test derived hypotheses against a collection of empirical data. On the other hand there is the more open analytical-inductive set-up, which approaches empirical phenomena in order to observe common patterns and develop, for instance, concepts, categories, typologies and sometimes theoretical propositions. This divide is probably also most clearly exposed in the rationalist/constructivist distinction, wherein rationalists tend to employ hypothetical-deductive methodologies and constructivist lean towards more analytical-inductive set-ups. However, we have also witnessed how constructivists engage in developing and testing hypotheses. The development of testable hypotheses and theoretical causal claims is based on the scientific ideal that research should be reproducible and portable into other research areas. Undoubtedly, this ideal has the upper hand in social science and sometimes also imposes particular scientific requirements on the more interpretative research traditions. The development of testable hypotheses and theoretical causal claims is thus often – rightly or not – seen as a measurement of the maturity of a research area or the ‘normalisation’ of otherwise dispersed research efforts. Moreover, the editorial norms of social science journals also reflect this and seem to require, or at least prefer, a ‘presentation of research results’ along a certain template: research question, theoretical framework, (perhaps) method, (empirical) analysis and conclusion (Lynggaard, forthcoming). So even though the evolution of new social science research fields, transdisciplinary or not, are supposed to follow their own trajectories, they are in terms of assessment inevitably mirrored against the ‘normal’ social science (Manners, 2003: 71–3; 2007: 90–1).
However, regardless of scholarly preferences and norms of conveying research results, research practice still tends to cut across this divide. Even when research is presented as a test of a clearly formulated hypothesis, the preceding research process will almost certainly have involved several attempts of formulating alternative research questions, hypotheses and interpretations of data. Equally, the actual analytical-inductive and interpretative research processes may in fact not be explicated at all in the final publications, but rather be presented as the research...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright
  4. Contents
  5. List of Tables, Figures and Boxes
  6. Notes on Contributors
  7. Part I: Overview
  8. Part II: Micro-Analysis
  9. Part III: Meso-Analysis
  10. Part IV: Macro-Analysis
  11. Index
Stili delle citazioni per Research Methods in European Union Studies

APA 6 Citation

[author missing]. (2015). Research Methods in European Union Studies ([edition unavailable]). Palgrave Macmillan UK. Retrieved from (Original work published 2015)

Chicago Citation

[author missing]. (2015) 2015. Research Methods in European Union Studies. [Edition unavailable]. Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Harvard Citation

[author missing] (2015) Research Methods in European Union Studies. [edition unavailable]. Palgrave Macmillan UK. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

[author missing]. Research Methods in European Union Studies. [edition unavailable]. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.