The power of framing : A new-institutional approach to interest group participation in the European Union
Sammanfattning: This dissertation develops a theory of interest group inclusion and exclusion in policy-making processes at the European level. The theory includes three major components: the European Union as a political opportunity structure for interest groups, the role of the European Commission as policy formulator, and patterns of inclusion and exclusionof interest groups in policymaking processes. The central argument is that neither the formal decision-making processes nor the interest groups' resources can alone explain the emergence of a particular pattern of interest group participation. The view of the EU as a pluralist system must be complemented with a view in which the bureaucracy, in this instance, the European Commission, is assigned a key role. This task is fulfilled by introducing an institutional perspective. The dissertation analyses EU policy processes and patterns of interest group participation in terms of the new sociological institutionalism. Using this perspective, it becomes clear not only that the political opportunity structure will affect interest group participation patterns, but also that this relationship is mediated by framing processes in which shared world-views are quite important, and in which cognitive frames are central concepts. The dissertation identifies different types of frame alignment processes, and examines the relationship between these types of alignment processes and the pattern of interest group participation. Drawing on evidence from four cases, it is argued that the process of framing policy serves as a discursive mechanism of inclusion and exclusion; interest groups that do not fit in the frame are likely to be excluded from consultation with the Commission. The general conclusion is that sociological institutionalism offers a valuable framework for understanding the institutional structure in the EU as a whole, and also how institutional structures and their functioning varies between policy domains.
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