Hebrew University Jerusalem 2007: Institutions vs Leadership

Hebrew University Jerusalem 2007: Institutions vs Leadership

"Institutions vs. Leadership: Towards a Theory of Credible Commitments"


Finn Laursen

Canada Research Chair in EU Studies

Director, EU Centre of Excellence

Professor, Department of Political Science

Dalhousie University

Halifax, N.S. B3H 4H6


[Preliminary draft. Comments invited]

Paper prepared for delivery at conference on supranational integration at the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 18-20 March, 2007


The paper will discuss the contribution of various IR and integration theories concerning 'credible commitments.' The term was probably first used by neo-liberal institutionalists, especially Robert Keohane, in the late 1980s. In the 1990s Andrew Moravcsik made it a defining element of his three-stage integration theory called liberal intergovernmentalism. According to Moravcsik the particular institutional choice of the European Communities, pooling and delegation of sovereignty, was a deliberate decision by the member states to create 'credible commitments'. During the so-called neo-neo debate within the IR discipline during the 1980s neo-realists had serious doubts about a committing kind of international cooperation. Were such to take place some kind of hegemonic leadership would be required, many argued. Among students of regional integration, Walter Mattli has emphasized the role of leadership as an important supply factor explaining the success of integration, making it more important than what he called 'commitment institutions'. So who are we to believe: does integration require supranational institutions – pooling and delegation – or is leadership more important? This paper tries to give some tentative answers.

Dr. Finn Laursen