European Defence Policy: Beyond the Nation State – By F. Mérand


European Defence Policy: Beyond the Nation State , by F. Mérand ( Oxford : Oxford University Press , 2008 , ISBN 9780199533244 ); xvi + 181pp. , £40.00 hb .

This book makes an interesting contribution to the debate about how best to understand the emergence and evolution of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Rejecting explanations drawing upon integration theory and international relations theory as largely inadequate, Mérand turns to political sociology, drawing on Bourdieu's concept of fields, or structured spaces of relations, and Tilly's account of the military and geopolitical foundations of state-building, to argue that ESDP represents a fundamental challenge to how we think about the European nation state in the 21st century.

The book offers four predominantly empirical chapters to reinforce this argument on the internationalization of European armed forces, the Europeanization of foreign policy, the crisis surrounding the future of European security policy and the construction of ESDP. These relatively short chapters are impressive in their ambitious scope. This is however also their weakness, as the author's need to condense complicated material, drawn predominantly from secondary sources, has led to factual inaccuracies and a degree of over-generalization.

Nevertheless, the book is a very useful and readable contribution to the field. The chapter on the internationalization of the armed forces rightly draws attention to the important socializing and professionalizing role of Nato's operations and its institutions in the development of ESDP, something that is often neglected in accounts of the Europeanization of national security and defence policies. Moreover, Mérand's account of the construction of ESDP asks interesting questions about the interaction between politicians, diplomats and military officers and their differing perspectives on the purpose of ESDP. It also begins to map the way in which differing ideas and interests interplay as the field of ESDP evolves – the argument that policy contestation goes far beyond the Atlanticist–Europeanist cleavage is well made.

In the conclusion which reconsiders the role of the state and its traditional provision of security in the contemporary EU, Mérand attempts to extend his case about the reasons for elite interactions in creating a European security field, to the implications for EU citizens, including the rank and file members of the armed forces. His conclusion that citizens are comparatively indifferent to, or even enthusiastic about, the move away from the nation-state providing military security and that modern soldiers join the armed forces for professional advancement rather than patriotism, thus negating any real issues about the legitimacy of ESDP, opens up some difficult but often unasked questions about the potential role of mercenaries in the provision of EU security and the legitimacy of such a force in an interventionist policy. In summary, Mérand makes a convincing case that political sociology can offer new insights into ESDP, even if his conclusions raise as many questions as they answer.