The Changing Nature of International Institutions in Europe: The Challenge of the European Union

Thomas Diez, Ian Manners, Richard Whitman

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The European Union is often compared to other political systems in order
to better understand its basic features and how they structure politics. This article argues that this focus on comparative politics instils a domestic bias into the study of the EU, which also ignores the impact of enlargement. To remedy this, a comparison is suggested between the order of the EU as a regional international society and the order of the traditional, global international society as analysed by the English School of International Relations, and in particular by Hedley Bull. It is argued that the primary goal of the international order of the society of states, the preservation of states as its fundamental units, has been replaced by the goal of the preservation of peace in Europe. Consequently, the five core institutions of international order identified by Bull (balance of power, international law, diplomacy, war and great powers) have been modified or replaced. The new institutions of the European order are identified as the pooling of sovereignty, the acquis communautaire, multilevel multilateralism, pacific democracy, member state coalitions and multiperspectivity. These sustain and enlarge a regional international society that not only combines international and domestic elements, but transforms politics to such an extent that it should better be called a multiperspectival society, confounding Bull’s expectation that the European integration will either lead to a European state or falter. This has potential ramifications for the organisation of international
society at large, although whether the transformative potential of the EU can
be realised remains to be seen, and will be decided above all in the EU’s treatment of its own borders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Integration
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)117-138
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

*Institute for Political Science, University of Tübingham, Germany;
**Institute of Society and Globalisation, Roskilde University, Denmark;
***Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, University of Bath, UK


  • European Union
  • institutions
  • international society
  • multiperspectival society

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