am 22. Mai 2000
In the preface to 'The Political System of the European Union' the author articulates that the central aim of the book is to provide an extensive review of the recent 'explosion' of empirical and theoretical literature, concentrating on the European Union's (EU) decision making and policy process. This aim is fulfilled admirably, in a comprehensive and accessible manner. The book begins by examining the EU system of Government. However, the conventional approach of examining separately each of the governing institutions is rejected in favour of examining in turn, the Executive (Council of Ministers and Commission), Legislature (European Parliament) and Judiciary (European Court of Justice). This classification not only increases parsimony, but also allows for the 'importation' of a wider body of political science literature in which the theories of governance have been developed to an extent far beyond those seen in the sub-field of European Studies. The book subsequently turns its attention to the politics of the EU, concentrating on public opinion, parties and interest representation. Drawing extensively on recent work by Mathew Gabel, and through original analysis of Eurobarometer data, a detailed picture is provided of the stratification of support for EU integration throughout European society. One major conclusion is made - the European issue cuts across the traditional left-right dimension - encouraging Europe's main political parties to play down the European issue in domestic competition. The consequences of this conclusion are analysed in the context of the EU's 'nascent political parties' and the prospects for majoritarian democracy - prospects which Hix concludes are extremely limited. In many respects this last point captures the essence of what Hix is attempting to convey in conceptualising the EU as a political system. For despite the author's initial claims, this book represents far more than a literature review. It represents an attempt to transfer the study of the EU from the paradigm of International Relations to the mainstream of Political Science. This has lead to the misperception that 'The political system of the EU' down plays the 'rogue' nature of the EU in comparison to other political systems. It does not. And the point is made clearly that the European Union is a political system but not a state. Amongst its many strengths, one weakness reoccurs. The book investigates and explains the EU using predominantly North American political science literature. In certain respects this is its strength: as in the transposition of US Congess literature onto the European Parliament. However, in other respects, where European literature would provide a valuable comparative framework, such literature is absent. Such a focus can be excused perhaps as a necessary counterbalance to the many 'Eurocentric' volumes on the EU. In 'The Political System of the European Union', Hix has produced an accessible and much needed literature review, whilst making a persuasive case for a change in the paradigm and methods of EU studies. It is for this latter reason that the book will become a seminal text.