- European Integration 1950–2003: Superstate or New Market Economy?
John Gillingham has written an entertaining and informative history of European integration. He is a professor of history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. Gillinhgam’s history is invaluable, yet the book is more than just history; it is also political commentary and makes no attempts to conceal this behind the historian’s cloak of objectivity or avoidance of presentism. Gillingham’s spirited prose can be refreshingly clean, albeit at times a bit breezy. Alternatively, it can also have bite, possessing a sarcasm and wit in the tradition of essayists such as Hunter S. Thompson or P. J. O’Rourke, but with the politics decidedly of the latter. Its style can be both forceful and tiresome, but more the former. Published by Cambridge University Press, Gillingham’s book breaks many conventions of historical and academic writing. It is bold in its scope and in its transdisciplinary methodological approach taken to its topic.
Gillingham’s clear methodology and strong statement of his ideological bias are welcome, even though this reviewer disagrees with his politics and sees limitations to his mythological approach. Gillingham has discovered Friedrich von Hayek along with the neoliberal institutionalist approach of political science. He fi nds the explanatory power of both compelling, and with the zeal of a new enthusiast gets a bit carried away in their application to his subject under study. Indeed, Gillingham’s subtitle makes clear his interest. He sees two competing philosophies guiding the EU’s development, as made clear in the book’s subtitle. The EU can be either a “superstate” or a zone for a “new market economy.” He clearly prefers the latter, and believes the former would impede the construction of a new market economy. Although his argument is clear enough in its presentation, it fails to understand the nuance of states, markets, and the relationship between the two. Essential questions are absent, however, such as what is the state and market, and more importantly, how do they change it over time to reflect different global economic contexts? Moreover, he presents a false dichotomy in hermetically sealing each off from the other.
While world historians will welcome his global historical intent, if only trans-Atlantic in practice, it would behoove both historians and other social scientists to follow his lead in employing both historical and social science methodologies to explain the recent past and present. Alone, each disciplinary model fails to explain the workings of the world; such as national histories often fail to explain nations when [End Page 123] divorced from global dynamics. Just as our histories should be more global they must have greater methodological breadth.
Commendably, for world historians, Gillingham asserts that the EU cannot be understood apart from international trends, and that the “tradition of divorcing studies of the European Union from these surrounding contexts . . . only makes for arid texts.” Unfortunately, while his work is a trans-Atlantic study, it is by no means global. Indeed, one gets the sense that East Asia was excluded from examination because its very success in employing the developmental state defies neoliberal nostrums regarding economic development. Moreover, the book appears to have been written before the equity market collapse of our new millennium. Yet, the book was published after those market busts, but Gillingham provides no explanation for this important event. He merely expresses a utopian’s confidence so prevalent in the business press of the 1990s that we have entered a new age of prosperity, if only we can keep the state from screwing it up.
For Gillingham, the force driving the EU integration over the past half-century is the market. On one hand Gillingham is a bit of a market fundamentalist who believes the market has an inescapable logic propelling the world toward greater integration and prosperity. Conversely, he is also taken with the “power of ideas” school advanced by the neoconservatives that privilege bold personalities in the making of history. Given this worldview, predictably...