Comparative European Politics

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 110–126 | Cite as

Using Europe: Strategic action in multi-level politics

Original Article


This article examines the importance of action-theoretical considerations in European studies. By outlining the notion of ‘usage’ of the European Union, we argue for a more systematically sociological consideration of strategic action in the study of European transformations. The recent turns towards constructivism and comparative political sociology allow analyzing the rationality of political actors without falling in the trap of overly reductionist rational choice assumptions. Concentrating on intentional action helps to reveal the importance of three aspects of the multi-level polity: (1) informal and non-constraining procedures; (2) the effects of ways in which actors move in between the different levels of the European political system; and (3) the ambiguous and often surprising coalitions that come together despite often considerable disagreement over their final goals.



We thank Nicolas Jabko, Frédéric Mérand, Bruno Palier, Olivier Rozenberg, Sabine Saurugger and Julien Weisbein for their careful reading and helpful critiques and all participants of the ECPR Joint Session Panel ‘Does European Integration Theory Need Sociology?’ in April 2008 in Rennes, France, for the vigorous debates and incisive comments. We are also grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and stimulating remarks.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sciences Po Paris, 28 rue des Saints PèresParisFrance

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