A Euro-American Union: Reflections on an Academic Marriage


A Euro-American Union: Reflections on an Academic Marriage

Anne-Marie Slaughter

In December of 1993, Andrew Moravcsik published ‘Preferences and Power in the European Community’ in the pages of the Journal of Common Market Studies, giving rise to the Liberal Intergovernmentalist theory of European integration. This month, the journal marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Moravcsik’s article with a special issue, “Liberal Intergovernmentalism and Its Critics,” devoted to assessing the legacy of Liberal Intergovernmentalism and its continued relevance in today’s crisis-ridden EU. 

Here, Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America and Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, reflects on her twenty-five year intellectual dialogue with, and marriage to, Andrew Moravcsik. 

*  *  *  *  *

The twenty-fifth anniversary of Liberal Intergovernmentalism happens to be Andy’s and my 25th wedding anniversary. It is thus time to celebrate many types of cross-fertilization. Andy has influenced my thinking in so many ways for so many years that sometimes I’m no longer sure how to disentangle where his thinking leaves off and mine begins. Yet we also remain strongly and occasionally even stridently at odds, with what he would call my legalism clashing sharply with what I would call his cynicism. Our differences are shaped by our disciplines as much as by our personalities and intellects, but I learn from him even in dissent.

Andy and I met in the fall of 1985, when I was a pre-doc at Oxford but on a Ford Fellowship at what was still then the Center for International Affairs at Harvard (now the Weatherhead Center). I remember this impossibly tall man standing in – filling up – the doorway of my small office, handing out a flyer to a party that he and his housemates were giving on Orchard Street. Three years later, as my first marriage ended, I went to Paris for a conference, stayed with Andy, and fell madly in love. We became a couple in early 1990, just after I became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago law school.

Anne-Marie Slaughter and Andrew Moravcsik

Anne-Marie Slaughter and Andrew Moravcsik

My name then was still Anne-Marie Burley. Andy would go to EU conferences and expand his theory of intergovernmentalism, and some graduate student not yet in on the latest gossip would innocently ask him whether he had read Burley and Mattli (1993) on the supranational-functionalist character of the European Court of Justice.  Thus we cut our academic teeth on opposite sides of an ongoing debate. But it was no accident that we were both studying Europe; we are both half-European (a Hungarian father on his side and a Belgian mother on mine), and share a culture, mindset, and sensibility that has shaped us deeply.

As a lawyer and an Oxford D.Phil schooled in the tradition of Hedley Bull’s The Anarchical Society, I was grappling with what the late Professor Thomas Franck used to refer to as the “existential question” that every international lawyer must face: whether and how law shapes politics. Walter Mattli and I elaborated the ways in which the European Court of Justice deployed law as both a mask and a shield for politics. Andy, by contrast, was taking on the sacred cows of European federalism, stripping away visions of peace and unity to uncover bedrock economic interests.

Will Phelan’s (2018) account of European legal integration in this issue revives that debate. Phelan essentially argues that Andy was persuaded by his wife that legal integration was driven by more neo-functionalist factors, but that he shouldn’t have been! In Phelan’s account, a true liberal intergovernmentalist explanation of legal integration would focus on the member states’ deliberate choice of a treaty enforcement system that would prohibit the kind of inter-state retaliation for violations and the invocation of safeguard mechanisms to excuse violations that characterize so many international treaties. To avoid this tit-for-tat, Phelan argues, the member states sought purely judicial enforcement through both national and supranational courts.

Phelan’s argument is novel and persuasive; indeed, he makes a real contribution to a fuller understanding of the member state and judicial motives. But what he cannot explain is exactly the dimension of the EC legal system that Walter Mattli and I focused on most – the ECJ’s decision to validate and actively encourage the use of the preliminary ruling procedure by individual litigants.  The ECJ could perfectly well have narrowed the reach of the Treaty of Rome’s Article 177 just as they narrowed the reach of 173, thereby reserving treaty enforcement to domestic courts but only with regard to cases brought by member states.

Such a decision would have accomplished the goal of substituting a domestic enforcement system for an inter-state retaliation system, but would have left decisions as to when and how to enforce the treaty in the hands of state lawyers, a far more predictable and controllable outcome. Phelan shows that some state lawyers and at least one prominent ECJ judge supported this step. Yet Mattli and I emphasize the innovation of encouraging individual litigants and their lawyers to bring as many cases as possible to enforce European law, as well as the active courting of national judges to hear those cases and refer questions of European law to the ECJ. With that step, EU law became truly like national law, invoked and upheld in accordance with the self-interest and civic commitments of both litigants and judges.

In the end, Phelan’s liberal intergovernmentalist account can co-exist with Mattli’s and my account. Indeed, fitting these two arguments together is a microcosm of the way I now think of Andy’s and my work fitting together more generally. Of course states have power; Mattli and I explicitly described the ways in which the Court as a whole and individual judges responded to increasing Member State concerns about “judicial activism” in the late 1970s and 1980s (Burley and Mattli 1993: 71). But so too do institutions and the individuals who operate them, animated by interests and ideals.

From 1990 to 1994 Andy and I lived mostly in Chicago, very happy years of cohabitation and collaboration, even though Andy was actually teaching at Harvard. Above all, we had no children! We would work at either end of our living room, an arrangement that continued in our joint study to this day. The difference is that then we had time to read and respond to each other’s work.

Andy began working on what I still think is his most important work: a liberal theory of international relations. He read stacks of books of classical liberal philosophy and political theory and derived a theory of international politics from the bottom up, starting with individuals and groups in society, moving up to governments, and finally to international institutions. I was writing what would become “Law among Liberal States: Liberal Internationalism and the Act of State Doctrine” (Burley 1992). The Berlin Wall had come down, history had ended – – although of course we were too sophisticated to believe that – – and I was convinced that in fact liberal states were bound together in different ways, and follow different rules, than non-liberal states.

Over the next two decades I came to realize, however, that the networks, more than the states they bind together, were the real story, and that a bottom-up view of global politics opened up an entire field of network design and opportunities for foreign policy webcraft (Slaughter 2017). Still, Andy’s theory, together with Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye’s (1977) work documenting networks among the complexly interdependent OECD states, helped provide a foundation for my work.

*  *  *  *  *

To return to our personal narrative, Andy and I moved to Harvard in 1994, and later to Princeton, where Andy continues to teach. We had our first son in 1996; our second on the first day of 1999. My memories of those years are of Andy typing away furiously on the manuscript that became The Choice for Europe, typically with Edward strapped to his chest in a Baby Bjorn.

We no longer had time to read each other’s work and comment painstakingly on drafts; our days were filled with logistics and the daily scorecard of joint parenting. We have both documented our odyssey as the parents of a child who seemingly overnight became a determined teenager heading firmly in the wrong direction (Slaughter 2012; Moravcsik 2015). Andy became the lead parent; I came home from Washington; we both found ourselves making choices that we did not expect but do not regret. Our story as a couple may well have more practical impact, surprisingly to us, than any of our academic work.

And in the end, Andy has perhaps influenced me perhaps most as the father of our children. He parents the way he researches and writes: with intensity, passion, and rigor. His highest accolade, which our sons have picked up, is “serious.” When Andy says someone is serious, he means committed, deep and disciplined about a work or project, whether it’s a matter of vocation or avocation. When Andy goes to hear an opera, he spends weeks in advance listening to and watching videos of earlier performances to prepare himself.

Above all, Andy is deeply committed to a set of intellectual, artistic, and moral principles, perhaps best captured by the German idea of a “gebildeter Mann,” an educated man, but equally important, a cultured man. Knowledge is sterile without culture, the highest expression of the human spirit. Indeed, at some level, the love of learning and the exploration of the endless realms of the imagination merge.

This wonderful issue is the best possible tribute to not only to the ideas and knowledge, but also to the standards and attitudes that Andy has transmitted to his students. It is a celebration of thirty years of scholarship and teaching. And it is the perfect prelude to Andy’s next act.


Burley, Anne-Marie (1992). ‘Law among Liberal States: Liberal Internationalism and the Act of State Doctrine’, Columbia Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 8, pp. 1907-1996.

Burley, Anne-Marie, and Walter Mattli (1993). ‘Europe Before the Court: A Political Theory of Legal Integration’, International Organization, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 41–76.

Keohane, Robert O., and Joseph S. Nye (1977).  Power and Interdependence:  World Politics in Transition (Boston: Little Brown).

Moravcsik, Andrew (2015). ‘Why I Put My Wife’s Career First’, The Atlantic (October).

Phelan, William (2018). ‘European Legal Integration: Towards a More Liberal Intergovernmentalist Approach’, Journal of Common Market Studies, https://doi.org/10.1111/jcms.12782.

Slaughter, Anne-Marie (2012) “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” The Atlantic (July/August).

Slaughter, Anne-Marie (2017).  The Chessboard and The Web: Strategies of Connection in A Networked World (New Haven: Yale University Press).