I Think Therefore I Act: Causal Beliefs in the Making of Europe

Abstract: European integration marks a revolution in the way states are constituted and interact. For the first time in history a group of sovereign states created supranational institutions with the power to pass legislation and make judicial decisions that override the autonomy of the individual states. This outcome is even more remarkable if we consider the long history of conflict that preceded European integration. What led the states of Europe in the years after World War II to approach European relations in such a radical manner? The dominant view in the literature is that integration was the natural outcome for a group of rational states in the context of post-war international and domestic structures. I argue that this account misses an important part of the story: policymakers pursued integration, in part, because of a set of beliefs about the dynamics of international relations that altered the way in which strategies were conceived. Especially after the destabilizing effects of World War II, the states of Europe faced considerable uncertainty in determining the most efficient way to pursue their interests. Causal beliefs reduced this uncertainty by providing expectations and suggesting causal patterns. An examination of the decisions to pursue integration by Italy in 1947 and the United Kingdom in 1961 support the argument. Leveraging disaggregated case studies based on extensive archival research, I show that policies of integration were derived from causal beliefs that help policymakers determine the best strategies for realizing the national interest.