Comparative Imperialism and European Disintegration

  • Hans Vollaard
Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)


Empires are a forgotten conceptual category in political studies. However, comparative analysis of the manifold failed empires of the past can offer a fruitful insight into a disintegrating EU, if it sufficiently resembles an ideal-type empire. And, with its unequal and asymmetric relationships between the centre and the peripheries in a radial pattern, ranging from the Eurozone, member states with opt-outs, candidates, and neighbouring countries, it does. The export of rules via enlargement and neighbourhood policies reflects the EU’s expansive nature, making its boundaries unstable. Similar to other examples of empires, the byzantine EU centre exerts control both in foreign and domestic politics of its peripheries. Even though explanations of disintegrating empires can be applied to the EU, their application appears to be problematic in that they provide a long list of potential disintegrative factors without revealing the way in which the factors are interconnected in the process of disintegration.


European disintegration Comparative imperialism Imperial overstretch Differentiated integration Enlargement Optimal size 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Vollaard
    • 1
  1. 1.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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