Guiraudon, Virginie, and Favell, Adrian. (2007) "The Sociology of European Integration". In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)
[From the introduction]. In recent critical literature reviews we have attempted to round up and summarise the existing ‘sociological’ style literature, as well as point to new and ongoing work that seems to advance a new agenda for sociology in EU studies (Favell 2006; Guiraudon 2006; also circulated). The focus there was on re-stating a case for an empirical political sociology of the EU – influenced in large part by the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, and most widely developed by French scholars – that homes in on the social backgrounds, careers, and organisational strategies of recognisable EU actors operating in the “political field” of Brussels (see Guiraudon 2001; Favell 1998). Partly, this is a reworking of familiar objects and events of study into a different conceptual language. Partly too, we admit, our agenda is also a “turf war” kind of exercise: driven by a certain frustration with the way other disciplines have moved in to “sociological” terrain – notably the social constructivists in IR – without necessarily being driven by core sociological questions, or indeed using recognisably empirical sociological strategies. Another big frustration is the regretful identification of sociology with debates in social theory – Habermas, Giddens, Beck and others (the best of this kind of work in EU studies is represented by the recent textbook by Delanty and Rumford 2005) – or with normative approaches to (again, the best of which might be work associated with ARENA in Oslo, i.e. Eriksen 2005 or Bellamy/Castiglione 2006). These approaches are established and evolving in their own ways, but are not necessarily aiding the development of an empirical sociology of European integration. Here, we go beyond the critical reviews, to offer another, different grounding for sociology in EU studies. First, we turn the question around. Instead of critiquing would-be sociological approaches out there, we rather ask why sociology as a discipline – whose central object of study is “society” – finds it so difficult to study the EU. The answer lies in the great difficulties it has transcending the theoretical and methodological problem of “methodological nationalism”, especially when it comes to a collective social entity such as the EU that is neither a nation, a state or a society. Second, we will consider the question of how to operationalise what should be the core question of any theory of European integration: that is, the question of what are the “social bases of European integration”, a question that would restore the biggest sociological question of all to the mainstream EU studies agenda.
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