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Multiple Embeddedness and Socialization in Europe: The Case of Council Officials

  • Jan Beyers (a1)

Neofunctional, supranationalist, and constructivist scholars studying European integration hypothesize that social interactions cutting across national borders lead individual actors to shift their allegiance toward the European level. This strong socialization hypothesis presumes that, as a result of prolonged exposure and interactions, individuals adopt role conceptions that promote a sense of “we-ness” and that fit into a view of the European Union (EU) as an autonomous level primarily designed for finding policy solutions in the interest of a common, European, good. In contrast, this article offers an institutional understanding of role enactment that argues that socialization—that is, the adoption of role conceptions—is considerably shaped by actors' embeddedness in multiple European and domestic contexts. Based on quantitative interview data, I demonstrate that, in contrast to the strong socialization hypothesis, extensive exposure to the European level does not necessarily lead to supranational role playing. On the contrary, domestic factors, rather than European-level conditions, positively affect the adoption of supranational role conceptions.Thanks to Ambassador Frans Van Daele and Ambassador Philippe de Shoutheete de Tervarent, who allowed interviews on aspects of this article. I also express my gratitude toward the ISPO-team of the University of Leuven, Belgium, for their help in doing the fieldwork, and to Jan De Bock and Vincent Mertens de Wilmars for the crucial information they provided. Data collection was made possible by a grant from the Fund for Scientific Research–Flanders (Belgium) and was supervised by Guido Dierickx (University of Antwerp, Belgium). Special thanks go to the participants in the various IDNET-workshops and the ARENA research seminar (April 2002), to IO editors Thomas Risse and Lisa Martin, two anonymous reviewers, and Karen Anderson, Morten Egeberg, Jeff Checkel, Alexandra Gheciu, Jeffrey Lewis, Marianne van der Steeg, Mark Rhinard, Jarle Trondal, and Maarten Vink for their extensive and constructive comments.

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