What is Integration?
Asking a scholar to define integration is like asking a blind man to
define an elephant. Surprisingly enough, there is no clear definition
of the word "integration", despite the common use of the word: a town's
modern architecture is quite well integrated with the old, you
integrate yourself into the modern society, a good musical depends on
the successful integration of acting with song and dance - or what
about an integrated circuit?
As long as we bear in mind that definitions are merely analytical tools without any truth-value, there is no problem. In fact, it all boils down to interpretation and investigation. In their quest to explain what integration is, researchers start from different assumptions, emphasize on different aspects, delineate different criteria and identify different actors. This search necessarily brings about a range of various explanations, none of which are able to tell the complete story but together they form an 'integrated' picture of what integration is all about. One might compare it to completing a large jigsaw puzzle: every piece gives some information but you need all the pieces to see the entire picture.
In fact, you can define integration as:
* a terminal condition
* a process, or
* a combination of both.
Integration as an Outcome
Defining integration as an outcome means that one describes integration as something static, whereby a situation of integration is achieved only when certain predefined criteria are fulfilled. Integration is thus seen as a property of a system, which characterizes the structure or a particular conjuncture. Scholars define the criteria of what they believe constitutes integration, and then examine whether case studies match their standards. For instance, if we consider the formation of the EU as a process of institutionalisation, we could examine how "integrated" the EU is at a certain point in time, thus study the degree and type of integration as a characteristic of the EU.
Integration as a Process
Integration as a dynamic process refers to the development of a state of isolation to a condition of integration. Research in this case is concerned with the variables, which are likely to induce or inhibit integration. If we resume our example of the EU as a process of institutionalisation, we might then study the process through which the EU has been integrated.
Integration as a Combination of Outcome and Process
A combination of both integration as an outcome and integration as a process defines integration as any level of association ascertained by specified measures or as any level of association between actors, on one dimension or another. This way of defining integration allows the researcher to speak of various types of integration (economic, social, political et cetera), and of various levels of integration. This enables researcher to do comparative research.
It is obvious that the static and dynamic approach are complementary, for at any given point in time, the units will be situated at any point along the spectrum of integration.