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When knowledge meets practice: learning communities and the EU’s common security and defence policy

Faleg, Giovanni (2014) When knowledge meets practice: learning communities and the EU’s common security and defence policy. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores the role of learning communities in the evolution of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). It engages the academic debate on institutional learning and the "practice turn" in IR to shed light on the factors leading the EU to learn by policy failure, as well as by ten years of practice in crisis management. Specifically, the work investigates the role of the knowledge and practice-based communities that shaped the consensus towards the comprehensive approach, with a strong emphasis on civilian means. Ideational factors, as opposed to material ones, are critical in understanding why the EU has developed a "soft" provider of security, in spite of the St Malo commitment to develop hard security capabilities. In the absence of a direct threat, EU member states’ preferences towards CSDP were driven by a set of new ideas, which in turn resulted from an emerging international agenda advocating the development of non-military crisis management approaches and tools. Through a critical appraisal of the "practice turn" and its application to the study of EU security and defence, the thesis sheds additional light on the overlap between knowledge and practice, which bears relevance for the research agenda on learning communities and norm diffusion. The empirical analysis makes an evidence-based reconstruction of the rise and evolution of civilian crisis management (CCM) and security sector reform (SSR). The comparison between the two case studies assesses the extent to which, at critical junctures, ideational factors influenced security policies. CCM and SSR, in fact, shared a similar learning process, yet the former had a much deeper impact on the shape and activities of the CSDP than the latter. To account for such variation in outcomes, it is argued that the emergence of "learning by doing" shaped CCM evolution. On the contrary, the introduction of SSR by knowledge-based communities failed to produce a common practice. Therefore, when policy innovation is supported by the re-elaboration of practices, the ideas diffused by learning communities are more persuasive and impactful on policy-making.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Giovanni Faleg
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > European Institute

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