Preferences, Power and Institutions in 21st-century Europe

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After twenty-five years, few scholars still dispute the leading role of Liberal Intergovernmentalism (LI) in theorizing EU history. Yet some question whether it can explain Europe's recent evolution. This article argues that LI retains its place as a ‘baseline’ integration theory. It is uniquely able to provide credible micro-foundations of EU decision-making, which even theories ostensibly critical of LI borrow. It offers a richer set of innovative opportunities for forward-looking extension than is often thought. Compared to competitors such as Post-Functionalism and Historical Institutionalism, LI generates more consistently satisfying empirical accounts of recent EU policy-making, particularly with regard to the outcomes that ultimately matter most, namely substantive policies. And it remains a trustworthy guide to normative evaluation, for example on the issue of democratic legitimacy. The future of integration theory lies in creatively elaborating LI and, where possible, crafting more rigorous syntheses with alternative accounts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1648-1674
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Common Market Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


  • European Union
  • Liberal Intergovernmentalism
  • institutions
  • integration theory
  • migration


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