Explaining European Disintegration

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.52, No.5, September 2014, p1142-1159
Publication Date September 2014
ISSN 0021-9886
Content Type


While the possibility of European disintegration is prominently on the public agenda, European Union (EU) studies have so far largely neglected the issue. This article looks for a proper theoretical starting point to conceptualize and explain European disintegration. Theories about European integration, but also international politics, comparative federalism, optimum currency areas and imperial decline appear to be problematic bases to this end. Some of these theories suffer from a state bias. Other theories are too narrowly focused to explain the complex process of disintegration. Yet others fail to interconnect coherently the manifold disintegrative factors. A theoretical framework on polity formation developed by Bartolini is the most promising basis from which to examine European disintegration as it avoids the problems just mentioned. It shows that Eurosceptic dissatisfaction mainly induces partial exits within the EU due to the EU's weak lock-in power, its problematic voice structuring and the lack of proper full exit options.

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Countries / Regions