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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

A "Bottom-Up" Europeanisation Research Design: An Experience with Starting at the Bottom and crossing the Rationalist/Constructivist Divide

Sarah Broughton Micova
The London School of Economics & Political Science
Sarah Broughton Micova
The London School of Economics & Political Science

Europeanization research into the implementation of EU policy, or rules and norms, at the national level have mainly consisted of the search for variables to explain differences among states. The new institutionalism upon which most of this research is based has been described as prone to institutional determinism and ignoring complexity. Therefore Radaelli and others have called for more “bottom-up” approaches to Europeanization research. At the same time, within this field there has been a long standing, but some have argued artificial, split between rationalists and constructivists. Although there are clear ontological distinctions between the two perspectives, Knill and Lenchow usefully proposed re-framing this split and re-organising explanations according to agency-based and structure-based. They argue the key difference is in the level of abstraction and therefore there is potential for linking these two perspectives. This paper deals with what these two suggestions mean for an empirical investigation. It describes the research design for a “bottom-up” investigation into Europeanization in the audiovisual media sectors in Slovenia and Macedonia that attempted to capture both agency and structure. It reflects on the implications this approach had on the methods used for data collection and for the analysis. It explains why it necessitated a mixed method strategy and what combing “levels of abstraction” meant in the analysis. As the paper describes while the project could not be accused of ignoring complexity, the approach presented some practical and interpretive challenges. Finally it makes some suggestions for future “bottom-up” Europeanization research that may attempt to cut across the artificial divide.
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