No unity for two research camps

European Union Politics
October 26, 2001

European Union Politics (EUP), launched in 2000, is a very welcome high-quality journal. Currently published three times a year, it will become quarterly in 2002. It has published a healthy mix of articles by well-known scholars and aspiring young talent. EUP grew out of an initiative by the standing group on the European Union of the European Consortium of Political Research. It is edited by Gerald Schneider of the University of Konstanz. Matthew Gabel (University of Kentucky) and Simon Hix (London School of Economics) act as associate editors.

The first five issues each comprise a main section (with usually four articles) and a "forum section" reserved for reviews, research notes and debates. EUP covers a wide range of issues including EU decision-making, the role of different EU institutions, multi-level government, good governance and EU aid policies, gender issues and the question of whether the decline of religion as a social and political force within the EU has an impact on support for European integration.

The journal is aimed at the numerate reader, who will need at least some basic statistical knowledge to appreciate the arguments put forward in the majority of articles. For potential EUP authors, a fairly robust statistical armoury seems to be a sine qua non for getting a manuscript published.

One of the weaknesses of the journal is that it does not bridge the divide between quantitative and qualitative social-science research. EUP clearly gives preference to the former. EU scholars and practitioners who rely mainly on qualitative analytical tools are largely relegated to the forum section.

This is illustrated in the debate over whether the European Parliament has lost political influence since the introduction of the co-decision procedure in place of the cooperation procedure. An article by George Tsebelis and Geoffrey Garrett, which uses a highly formalistic quantitative model to argue that the EP has lost influence, is fiercely criticised with some interesting arguments put forward by Christoph Crombez, Bernard Steunenberg and Richard Corbett MEP. Their comments, however, appear only in the forum section. It is laudable that the editors draw attention to the disagreement that exists among academics and practitioners by inviting critical voices. But it would have been even better to initiate a real dialogue between the qualitative and quantitative schools of thought, even if it became merely a dialogue of the deaf. As it is, Corbett's stark warning that "a large amount of academic work is based on a lack of knowledge of the realities of decision-taking and has gone off at a tangent" may go unheard and unchallenged.

The editorial statement in the first issue claims that "European Union politics does not yet possess an outlet that concentrates on the most advanced and methodologically sophisticated research papers on any aspect of the EU from specialists from all over the globe. At the moment, scientific progress still takes place in idiosyncratic edited volumes or general journals that publish papers on the European Union only randomly and sometimes, it seems, arbitrarily."

This is an exaggeration. It ignores the fact that EUP is in direct competition with other high-quality EU/European politics journals such the Journal of Common Market Studies, the Journal of European Public Policy and the European Journal of Political Research. The market for a new EU journal is certainly more competitive than is suggested by the editorial statement quoted above. However, EUP offers a distinctive scholarly perspective on EU politics and it deserves close attention.

Rüdiger Wurzel is lecturer in politics, University of Hull.

European Union Politics

Editor - Gerald Schneider, Matthew Gabel and Simon Hix
ISBN - ISSN 1465 1165
Publisher - Sage (four times a year, www.sagepub.co.uk)
Price - £34.00 (individuals) £205.00 (institutions)

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