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Journal of Cold War Studies 2.3 (2000) 81-86

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A Test Case of Moravcsik's "Liberal Intergovernmentalist" Approach to European Integration

John Gillingham

Meet President Charles de Gaulle, Realpolitiker. Andrew Moravcsik's article is cast as a revision of the almost universally accepted image of France's imperious leader as a statesman consumed by dreams of national glory and grandeur. It demonstrates by force of overpowering evidence and logic that the crisis of the European Economic Community (EEC) in the mid-1960s precipitated by de Gaulle's actions had far less to do with Gaullist ideology than with the fact that the General, like lesser figures of this democratic age, had to pay heed to powerful interest groups, in this case French farmers, when making policy. The crisis in question produced the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) but also culminated in the "empty chair" stand-off and France's refusal to participate in Community business. It ended thanks chiefly to the Luxembourg Compromise, which enabled any country represented in the Council of Ministers to veto proposed legislation. The Community emerged from the crisis much weakened.

Moravcsik shows that the pressure exerted by the farm lobby shaped not only the new CAP but the broad lines of French policy toward the EEC. His objective in making this point is apparently as much polemical as biographical; he uses the crisis of the 1960s as a lever with which to upend and topple a prevailing, though already tottering, orthodoxy. Since the same purpose also underlies his magisterial history of the integration movement, his article will be examined here against the backdrop of this formidable book as well as on its own merits. 1 [End Page 81]

The orthodoxy Moravcsik seeks to discredit is the familiar one of "neo-functionalism," which in recent years has been re-baptized as "historical institutionalism." It holds that technocratic entrepreneurship, specifically of the European Commission, the Community's directorate--which features reciprocal "spillover effects" that produce "path-driven," prefigured outcomes--is the motor of the integration process. Moravcsik challenges this approach with one that relates progress toward integration to successful bargains between national states acting, stage by stage, to adapt to economic change in a Pareto-positive manner. He views the integration process as something open-ended and economic in origin, a process that is both institutionalized and advanced politically by means of enforceable diplomatic agreements. The evidence presented in The Choice for Europe points unswervingly to the conclusion that no other theory is consistent with the historical record. The text is replete with examples of how explanations that tie grand strategy to this great movement toward economic and political unification are often merely conjectural or can be linked only by means of tortured intellectual constructs to the actual process of formulating and implementing policy. Implicit in Moravcsik's approach is the notion of integration as "liberalization made politically possible." It is in this connection that he assigns interpretive significance to "geopolitics," a term frequently used as polite shorthand for the German problem, and "technocratic entrepreneurship," which serves in his account as a flag of convenience for dirigisme.

Moravcsik's test case is apposite for a couple of reasons. First, it disposes of circumstantial arguments concerning "functionalism," which is simply irrelevant to the matter at hand. The negotiations that led to the creation of the CAP took place between representatives of the six member states of the Community. The outcome was precisely the opposite of that sought by the Commission--which pressed for liberalization rather than a new system of price supports. And, of course, the Commission also lost out in the larger battle over the power, shape, and future of Community institutions, in which the controversies over CAP figured. The Community's claws were cut, its roar was silenced, and a long hibernation would begin. Confederalism, not centralism, would be the rule for nearly twenty more years.

But there is another reason for the appositeness of the test case. De Gaulle presents a spectacular Paradebeispeil. If even this great visionary had...