Rational choice and EU politics

Over the past two decades, rational choice theories have made rapid inroads into the study of EU politics. This paper examines the application of rational choice analyses to EU politics, assesses the empirical fruitfulness of such analyses, and identifies both internal and external challenges to the rational choice study of the EU. With regard to the empirical fruitfulness of rational choice, the paper notes charges of methodological 'pathologies' in rational choice work, but suggests that rational choice approaches have produced productive research programs and shed light on concrete empirical cases including the legislative, executive and judicial politics of the EU, as well as on other questions such as public opinion and Europeanization. Turning to external critiques, the paper examines claims that rational choice is 'ontologically blind' to certain phenomena such as endogenous preference formation and sources of change. While rational choice as a research program does focus scholars attention on certain types of questions, rational choice scholars have theorized explicitly, alongside scholars from other theoretical traditions, about both national preference formation and about endogenous source of change, thereby clarifying and advancing the study of both phenomena.
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