Conceptualising, which essentially means thinking about phenomena in abstract terms, is very much part of EU Studies. It is so because academic commentators normally want to get beyond collecting and assembling facts and move to generalisations about the nature and significance of the facts. This is viewed as being important both in its own terms and as an essential prerequisite for explanatory theorising. Numerous attempts have been made to pinpoint the essential features of the EU in conceptual terms or, as it is often put, to capture ‘the nature of the beast’. Problems in doing this are examined in the opening section of the chapter. Attention is then focused on two central features of the conceptual literature. The first of these features is three key concepts – sovereignty, intergovernmentalism, and supranationalism – that are habitually employed when assessing the political character of the EU in conceptual terms.
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