The EC as a strategic actor in the international political economy : European steel policy from the 1970's to the 1990's
This thesis analyses the European Community (EC) as a strategic actor in the International Political Economy (IPE). Rivalry or competition in the IPE has traditionally been analysed with a central focus on the state. Yet, with the advent of factors such globalisation and interriationalisation, the trend towards the formation of regional trading blocs, and the emergence of firms as powerful political actors, the notion of states' autonomy and strategic action capacities has increasingly been at odds with the realities of social, economic and political life. This thesis captures the complex interactions of state actors in today's IPE by adopting the concept of state economic functions and creating a level playing field upon which their interactions can be analysed. In order to evaluate strategic action capacities, the thesis identifies a range of key political, market and social variables and synthesises them into a research framework for the study of strategic action in the IPE. The research framework consists of four interactive elements: international relations, institutional capacity, decision-making capacity and market structure. Reflecting the need to analyse strategic action capacities on a sectoral basis, the research framework is applied to a longitudinal case study of EC policy-making in the steel sector from the 1970s to the 1990s. The thesis shows that the focus on state economic functions enables the researcher to move beyond traditional state-centric analysis and to incorporate non-state actors such as the EC into the analysis. The application of the research framework to the case of the EC shows that it emerged as a 'parallel' or 'joint' provider of state economic functions and that it has evolved into one of the most powerful actors in the IPE. The empirical analysis of EC policy-making in steel produces not only produces insights into the EC's strategic action capacities, but also insights into the strategic action capacities of other actors in IPE, the factors that restrict actor's capacity to act strategically, and the policies that should be adopted in order to improve strategic action capacities. By approaching the EC from the perspective of strategic action, the thesis offers a new approach to on-going research that tries to conceptualise the role and capacities of the EC in IPE, the evolution of the EC into a powerful international actor, and insights into the factors that shape the strategic action capacities of actors in the IPE.