Europe Beyond the Nation State

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Course Information
Political Science
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 



As the international system changes after the Cold War, the relevance of nation states is increasingly called into question, particularly in the context of the process of European Integration. The European Union constitutes a new form of large political entity which is difficult to understand even for its practitioners. Usually it is maintained that it constitutes a completely new phenomenon, a unique type of political regime. Most scholars of the EU proceed from this assumption describing in great detail the ever growing body of EU regulations and increasing number of European supranational institutions.

Increasingly, however, some scholars and even some politicians realize that a better understanding of the European integration process can be reached by putting it into a comparative perspective. Such comparisons could be historical, looking at previous union or imperial experiences, or theoretical, developing visions for Europe’s future. While unions are formed on a voluntary basis, empires are based on the exercise of different forms of political power. Both models are not mutually exclusive. Systems may for example originate as unions and develop into empires. Combining approaches of political theory, of the history of international relations. and of modern comparative political science, this course will try to look into and discuss these and related questions. Included are site visits and group work with Austrian students highlighting Central European political experiences.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.
Learning outcomes: 

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • See a broad comparative context of the European Union including historical, present day and utopian concepts of large political systems.
  • Describe and articulate the rise and decline of the nation state in Europe.
  • Describe and articulate models for the future political developments in Europe, including different concepts of union, empire, and superstate.
  • Analyze both actual and potential aspects of changes and transformations in the European Union.
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Class discussions
  • Group work
  • Project with Austrian students.
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class participation and oral presentation on project - 15%
  • Written project report - 15%
  • Midterm - 35%
  • Final exam - 35%

N.B. Group Work and Project
Small groups of IES Abroad and Austrian Students select a course- related topic, research it, and present it to the group orally as part of class discussion during the semester. Each student then submits a written report of the group project work.

Week Content & Readings
Week 1-2: Introduction

1. Ups and Downs of the European Nation State

  • Cooper, Breaking of Nations, part 1
  • Dyson, State Tradition, chs 1-3
  • Paul et al., The Nation State in Question, part IV

2. Origins and Growth of the European Union

  • McCormick, Understanding, ch 1-3
  • Hix/ Hoyland, The Political System, chs 1, 2, 13
Week 3-4: Union Experiences

3. Successful Unions

  • Fabbrini, Compound Democracies, chs 1-3
  • Holenstein, The Republican Alternative, chs 1-4
  • Goldstein, Constituting, pp 1-66, 99-160

4. Unsuccessfull Unions

  • Gligorow, Why do Countries Break Up?, chs 1-3
  • Macartney, The Habsburg Empire, chs 14-18
Week 5-6: Varieties of Empires

5. Traditional Empires

  • Münkler, Empires,, chs 1-3
  • Zagorin, Thucydides – An Introduction, chs 1/ 6
  • Kelly, The Roman Empire, chs 1-4 and 7
  • Evans, The Holy Roman Empire, chs 1-4, 18

6. Modern Empires

  • Münkler, Empires,, chs 4-6
  • Samson, The British Empire, part 3
  • Howe, Empire, chs 1, 2, 5
Week 7-9: Visions of Europe

7. European Superstate

  • Morgan, European Superstate, chs 1, 5, 7
  • Laughland, Tainted Source, chs I-III

8. Cosmopolitanism

  • Beck and Grande, Cosmopolitan Europe, chs 1, 3, 8
  • Siedentop, Democracy, chs 1, 7, 11

9. Postmodern Empire

  • Zielonka, Europe – introduction, chs 1, 2, 6 and conclusions
  • Majone, Dilemmas, chs 1, 2, 9, 10
Week 10: Conclusion

10. The EU in Comparative Perspective

  • Fabbrini, Compound Democracies, chs 8-10
  • Checkel, European Identity, part II McCormick, Europeanism, chs 3, 6, 8


Required readings: 
  • Beck and Grande, Cosmopolitan Europe, London: Polity 2007.
  • Checkel/ Katzenstein (eds.), European Identity, Cambridge UP 2009.
  • Cooper, The Breaking of Nations, New York: Atlantic Monthly 2003.
  • Dyson, The State Tradition in Western Europe, London 2009.
  • Evans et al. (eds.), The Holy Roman Empire, Oxford UP 2011.
  • Fabbrini, Compound Democracies, Oxford: UP 2010.
  • Gerlich, Unions in Comparison, in: Reinisch/ Kriebaum (eds.), The Law of Intenational Relations, Utrecht: Eleven 2007.
  • Gligorow, Why do Countries Break Up? The Case of Yugoslavia, Upsala 1994.
  • Goldstein, Constituting Federal Sovereignty, Baltimore: John Hopkins UP 2001.
  • Hix/ Hoyland, The Political System of the European Union, 3rd ed., London 2011.
  • Holenstein, The Republican Alternative. The Netherlands and Switzerland Compared, Amsterdam UP 2008.
  • Howe, Empire, Oxford: UP 2002.
  • Kelly, The Roman Empire, Oxford: UP 2006.
  • Laughland, The Tainted Source. The Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea, London 1998.
  • Macartney, The Habsburg Empire, London 2010.
  • Majone, Dilemmas of European Integration, Oxford UP 2009.
  • McCormick, Europeanism, Oxford UP 2010.
  • McCormick, Understanding the European Union, London: Palgrave 2005.
  • Morgan, The Idea of a European Superstate, Princeton UP 2005.
  • Münkler, Empires, London: Polity 2007.
  • Paul et al. (eds.), The Nation State in Question, Princeton UP 2003. Samson (ed.), The British Empire, Oxford UP 2001.
  • Siedentop, Democracy in Europe, London: Allen Lane 2000.
  • Zagorin, Thucydides – An Introduction for the Common Reader. Princeton: UP 2005.
  • Zielonka, Europe as Empire, Oxford: UP, 2006.