An Organisational Approach To European Integration Outline of a Complementary Perspective.
AN ORGANISATIONAL APPROACH TO EUROPEAN INTEGRATION – OUTLINE OF A COMPLEMENTARY PERSPECTIVE (FORTHCOMING 1)
Organisational approach to European integration: focuses on individual actors organisational context → to account: behaviour, interests and identities
Intergovernmentalists: usually preclude any profound impact of EU institutions and organisations
Institutionalists: claim that EU institutions are able to shape and reshape individual actors’ preference and sense of belonging (seen from an organisational perspective: institutionalists often fail to specify (and theorise) the organisational components that institutions may contain.
This article: tries to illustrate what an organisational approach has to offer in fields like committee governance and Commission decision making.
The need for a complementary perspective:
○ The intergovernmental argument (Moravscik) has been applied more generally on European integration for a long time. From this perspective: policy-making at the European level is, in general, dominated by national governments whose interests and preferences are shaped and reshaped at the national level. Institutions like the Commission and the Court are managing cooperation among states by reducing transaction costs. Conflicts and cleavages at the European level are organised along (national) territorial lines.
→ this view has been challenged and criticized by many scholars. According to this critics: institutions at the European level might play a much more significant role in the policy process and they may be able to furnish participants with interests, preferences and identities and even recast those already acquired at the national level.
From an institutionalist perspective: implementation of EU legislation is not only a question of will and incentives, but is seen as highly contingent upon national administrative traditions (Knill; Sverdrup)
○ Organisational perspective: the extent to which institutions might impinge profoundly on people’s pre-established mind-sets and loyalties has to depend on how these institutions are organized.
1st: settings with modest demands on decision-makers’ attention (for example: Commission or Council groups) can’t be expected to have the same impact as institutions to which individuals devote most of their energy (for example: national ministries or Commission directorates)
2nd: Institutions at the EU level can be organised in ways that sustain and underpin rather than deeply challenge already acquired identities
3rd: somewhat paradoxically, such “non-socialisation” within EU institutions might be interpreted as highly conducive to further European integration and transformation of the existing political order. In the same vein, from an organisational angle, it is quite possible that individual resocialisation at the EU level may contribute to system preservation
→ organisational approach: provides a yardstick for measuring system transformation in a relatively consistent way across systems of governance and it offers an account of individual preference and identity formation and change. Organisational perspective focuses more on generic features of organisation
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Organisational key variables:
Normative structure: rules and roles specifying → who are expected to do what and how. Defines interests and goals that are pursued. Decision-makers: aren’t be able to attend everything at the same time and to consider all possible alternatives and their consequences → the structure can therefore never be neutral, it always represents a mobilisation of bias in preparation for action.
What reasons then do we have to expect that people will comply with organisational norms from the moment they enter an organization?
1st: they may feel a moral obligation to do so
2nd: they may find compliance to be in accordance with their self-interest. Organisations are incentive systems that inform members at lower levels of their potential career prospects
3rd: social control and “peer review” by colleagues are supposed to make deviant behaviour less likely
→ These mechanisms do not imply that organisational members give up their interests from the moment they enter an organisation. However, personal preferences are put aside and are thus supposed to be of minor importance in explaining organisational behaviour
Exception: decision processes that might impact more directly on their career prospects, for example: reorganization process
Dimensions of organizational structure: horizontal specialization: expresses how different issues and policy areas, for example transport and environmental protection, are supposed to be linked together or de-coupled from each other.
Four fundamental ways in which tasks may be distributed horizontally among units (Gulick): relation to territory, purpose (sector), process (function) or clientele served.
Primary structure: much more demanding organisational structure than a secondary structure, means that a person is expected to use most of her or his time in a particular organisation. Organisation = main employer.
Secondary structure: usually engage people only on a part-time basis
○ Organisational demography
According to Pfeffer demography refers to the composition, in terms of basic such as age, sex, nationality, education and length of service of the social entity under study → such factors are supposed to impact on decision behaviour (although the strength of potential effects have to depend on characteristics of the organisational structure).
Impacts of demographic factors are closely related to socialisation. Socialisation usually means that values, norms and role expectations have become internalised in individuals.
New recruits: arrive “pre-packed” with images and attitudes → with increasing length of service in a particular organisation they may however become resocialised.
Socialised organisational members identify themselves strongly with a particular organisation and are supposed to advocate its interests “automatically” in the sense that these interests are taken for granted and legitimate without further consideration.
○ Organisational locus (has not been emphasized very much in the literature)
Most organisations are located in particular places and buildings
1st: features of location and physical space segregate private lives and their associated role conceptions and identities from organisational roles and identities
2nd: when multiple organisational memberships are separated in space: cues are evoking different roles and identities
3rd: physical distance within and between government buildings seems to affect contact patterns and co-ordination behaviour.
In short: organisational locus like organisational structure creates boundaries that focus decision maker’s attention and assist them in coping with a complex reality
Organisational point of view: all institutions are organisations, not all organisations however are institutionalisations. Institutionalisation is a dimension of organisation that adds important characteristics and it takes time: organisations are growing increasingly complex by adding informal norms and practices. To become a real institution has the “grown up” and the complex organisation be infused with value beyond the technical requirements of the task → organisation acquires a self, a distinctive identity.
Political perspective: organisations become real institutions as they come to symbolise the community’s aspirations, its sense of identity. Real institutions embody societal values and strive to impose those same values on society.
May be an alternative to the historical path to institutionalisation. All organisations and institutions find themselves within “institutionalised environments”, that is environments composed of legitimate models of what is seen as good and modern organisation, procedures and recruitment practices. Thus organisations could institutionalise faster by adopting already historically developed forms that are seen as highly appropriate for equivalent organisations. There certainly are models “out there” of how executives, legislatures courts and central banks could be properly structured, staffed and housed.
Applying the argument on the European Union – some examples
What organisation tells us about system transformation
Intergovernmentalists (like Moravcsik) don’t offer any cues for ascertaining profound transformation of the European state system if it occurs.
Neo-functionalists: determine the degree of integration and governance transformation by considering how many and which government functions or issue areas are dealt with at the EU level. Some prefer to emphasise the amount of “interwoveness” or “multi-levelness” (Kohler-Koch), or “fusion” (Wessels), while others portray the EU polity as loosely coupled and open-ended (Richardson; Laffan; Heritier).
Institutionalist perspective: Europe will be more integrated the more say EU level institutions actually have in relation to national institutions, and the more the interests and identities of policy makers can be moulded and moved within EU institutions (Olsen)
Fundamental new thing in post WWII Europe: gradual emergence of organisations and institutions at the European level that, due to their specialisation, focus conflict along non-territorial lines, for example, sectoral, sectional, ideological and institutional lines. The European Commission, Parliament, Court of Justice and Central Bank all allow (and mostly oblige) participants to depart from national role conceptions and allegiances.
European level: conflict and co-operation among nations have been clearly dominant.
○ Governance by committees
EU level: primary and secondary organisations. Commission, for example, is the primary affiliation of the Commissioners as well as of the officials in the services. Preparatory committees in the Commission and the Council represents secondary arenas.
Arguably, the Council’s basic principle of specialisation is geography (territory) in the sense that each participant (except Commission representative) is supposed to represent a particular national government. Since the Council also divides its work according to sector or function at the ministerial and working party level, an additional specialisation principle is highly present. → organisational setting is in fact ambiguous (participants also identify with their national governments). Result: might be that sectoral and functional identities could be evoked simultaneously, although not to the same extent.
Commission: divides it work primarily according to sector or function, clearly expressed in the existence of directorates general (DGs). At all levels (including preparatory expert committees) participants are not, as a main rule, expected to represent their country of origin. Neither this organisational setting is however unambiguous. (Commission may be interested in having the views of the Member States presented in order to anticipate more precisely future Council reactions. However role perceptions in Commission committees do differ from those assumed in Council groups. In the latter the government representative role is clearly more prevalent).
The Commission and its personnel
The role that national interests might play in Commission decision-making is a highly contentious and enduring issue. It has been stated however that even the Commission is permeated by national interests and acts as an important competition between them
Most intergovernmentalists would probably tend to see commissioners, their cabinet members, as well as officials in the services, as actors mainly pursuing the interests of their respective national governments. Institutionalists: would most likely emphasise that the Commission like the other institutions furnish individual actors with particular interests and beliefs and that it may even be able to resocialize people so that they gradually come to assume supranational identities. Organisational perspective: contending approaches may be both correct in their assumptions: the extent to which individuals’ preferences and allegiances might become shaped or reshaped within the Commission has to depend on the Commission’s organisational structure, organisational demography and on the degree of institutionalisation.
Personal attitudes: have to be operationalised and have to pass several potential organisational filters.
1st: considering organisational demography. Routinely steps are also taken in order to avoid national clusters or enclaves to develop. Thus, staff immediately below or above a given senior post should be of a different nationality and the divisions (“units”) are multi-nationally composed.
2nd: for most officials the Commission is their primary organisational affiliation. Most posts are permanent and they are mainly grouped according to purpose or function, thus making it less likely that the incumbents will focus on territorial (national) concerns as such and more likely that conflict will occur along sectoral lines.
Interviews and a survey conducted among national officials who participate in EU-level policy-making show that Commission officials are seen as acting mainly independently from particular national interests.
Concerning the College of Commissioners there are aspects of its organisational structure that might be conducive to enhancing the importance of demographic background factors like nationality. Commissioners are nominated by member governments for a limited number of years, “private offices” (cabinets) have traditionally been mainly staffed by their compatriots. On the other hand: role expectations are unambiguous; instructions from outside “the house” should not be taken.
The Commission more clearly than any of the other EU institutions symbolizes the EU’s departure from the traditional intergovernmental organization.
EU-sceptics: would like to see the Commission more as a second secretariat for the Council
Pro-integrationists: prefer to perceive it as the (future) European government.
Although the proper role of the Commission is still contested, its existence is not on the agenda.
Intergovernmentalists: do not seem to offer any cues for ascertaining profound system change. Cues proposed by the institutionalists arguably are too vague and incomplete
Organisational approach: provides a yardstick for measuring system integration and transformation in a relatively consistent way across systems of governance
Like neo-functionalists, institutionalists and constructivists, “organisationists” consider preference formation and change endogenous to their models. However, organisational analysts would find it necessary to specify the organisational setting in a much more precise way in order to clarify the conditions under which preference and identity alteration might take place and in what direction changes may occur. Focus should be on dimensions of a more abstract and generic nature that may be theoretically linked to particular role perceptions, identities, patterns of conflict and decision processes. The extent of deep transformation has to depend on the organisational structure’s ability to decouple previous (external) socialisation experiences from present decision situations.