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The Multi-disciplinary Nature of EU Studies / Jun INOUE Assistant Professor Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University

While other columns on this website touch on why studying the EU is important, this column will discuss why it is important for Japanese to approach the EU through a multi-disciplinary lens. Before beginning my current career in the Faculty of Economics, I majored in politics in the Faculty of Law and Political Science. Studying the EU in different faculties made me realize how EU Studies can help develop our multi-disciplinary skills, as well as enable us to better and more objectively understand Japan.

1. EU Studies as a Case Study for Multi-disciplinary Approaches

It has been said that "EU Studies" by its nature necessitates multi-disciplinary approaches. Certainly we need to consider the findings of each discipline, such as history, political science, and economics to develop a better understanding of the EU. For example, to explain the origin of the European Union (namely, the European Integration Project), we need to cover such issues as the idea of renunciation of war between Germany and France, the substantial demand for economic recovery, the measures that were taken for economic recovery, and the international environment which enabled Western Europe to concentrate on reconstruction and increasing internal trade.

Multi-disciplinary training, which demands the construction of technical terms and concepts befitting one's own study, enables one to seek an explanation tailored to one's own research interest. From this perspective, EU Studies could offer helpful training for those who want to develop multi-disciplinary approaches. For those who wish to become specialists, such as economists specializing in the EU, or policy analysts working on European affairs, such studies represent a precious opportunity to engage in discussion with students from different academic backgrounds. While a diversity of participants, along with a solid awareness of the issues, minimum standards of knowledge, and common research concerns on their part are essential for fruitful discussion, such opportunities are rarely given in reality. The Joint Graduate School on EU Studies will provide numerous such opportunities.

2. Studying the European Experience to Draw Comparisons with Japan

For Japanese, studying the European experience provides opportunities to think about problems in Japan as well as solutions for them, because at present both Europe and Japan are faced with similar problems, such as low economic development, high unemployment, competitiveness, and an aging population and low birth rate. Studying the European experience enables us to recognize different viewpoints and goals among various levels of political economy, such as the European Union, national governments, and local governments. Understanding the reasons behind these views and political goals will enable us to better formulate informed opinions about the situation in contemporary Japan, as we question where and how to define problems, and what are the preferred options to pursue in solving those problems.

Our choices and decisions are not free of our sense of values. Through the study of others, we may gain insight into ourselves, whereupon we can realize to which values we attach the greatest importance as individuals. Such experience defines the ways in which we participate in society, and what kind of roles we play.

These are the reasons why I believe it is important for Japanese to study the EU through approaches transcending any given faculty, and to experience the multi-disciplinary nature of EU Studies.

 
 

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The Multi-disciplinary Nature of EU Studies

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Sending EU Experts Out into Society

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Why the EU Now?