Handbook of European Policies
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Handbook of European Policies

Interpretive Approaches to the EU

Edited by Hubert Heinelt and Sybille Münch

This definitive Handbook addresses the current lack of research into European policymaking and development using an interpretive perspective. Questioning areas that mainstream approaches tend to neglect, contributors target the ways in which ideas, arguments and discourses shape policies in the institutional context of the EU.
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Chapter 4: How to explain discursive change: an actorcentered approach to interpretive explanation

Frank Nullmeier


Explaining discursive change by economic, social and political contexts is a well-known type of research strategy used inside and outside interpretive social science. But is it possible to explain discursive change in a particular interpretive way? This chapter develops a basic model of interpretive explanation. Interpretive explanation is based on the understanding of the internal rationality of the discourse. It shows that discursive changes are triggered by reasons that prove to be good against the background of the standards proper to the discursive formation. Balances of acceptance are the discourse-internal factors through which the dynamics leading to change are induced or not. A six-stage model of interpretive explanation will be developed which demonstrates the manageability of the approach presented for empirical studies on European policies.

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