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date: 24 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the joint decision trap (JDT), a decision-making mechanism developed in 1988 by Fritz Scharpf to show the link between higher level government’s decisions and the unanimous or consensus agreement of lower level governments. JDT explains how the interlinking of decision-making processes translates to suboptimal policy outcomes because higher level decisions can be blocked by each lower level actor. The chapter discusses how the concept and theory of JDT offer important insights into the dynamic of European decision-making, but by no means all of its aspects. It considers the definition of JDT and its important contribution to theoretical and empirical and research on European decision-making. It then evaluates some of the arguments against JDT and the limits of its explanatory power, as well as Scharpf’s alternative to the theoretical debate between (liberal) intergovernmentalism and neofunctionalism. The chapter concludes by assessing the continuing heuristic value of JDT.

Keywords: joint decision trap, decision-making, Fritz Scharpf, government, intergovernmentalism, neofunctionalism

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