Democratic governance beyond the nation state ?

Zürn, Michael


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: INIIS Uni Bremen
Schriftenreihe: InIIS-Arbeitspapier
Bandnummer: 12
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 1998
Publikationsdatum: 16.08.2008
Originalveröffentlichung: (1998)
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.35 (Demokratie), 89.30 (Politische Systeme: Allgemeines), 89.37 (Föderalismus), 89.73 (Europapolitik, Europäische Union)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

If the EU were to apply for membership in the EU, it would not qualify because of the inadequate democratic content of its constitution. Nevertheless, a good 50 percent of the acts passed in France today are in fact merely the implementation of measures decided upon in the opaque labyrinth of institutions in far-away Brussels, so, is France still democratically governed? The picture is similar with respect to other international institutions in the OECD world. The WTO system of agreements, for instance, comprises almost 10 000 pages and is the result of marathon negotiations lasting over a decade and in which over 150 states and thousands of experts participated. Although these agreements contain far-reaching implications for employees in crisis-prone industrial sectors and in agriculture, the German government is generally almost overzealous in implementing the demands stipulated in the agreements. Did German citizens really have a recognizable influence on these decisions? The problem is clear. Although security and social welfare, two important aims of governance, can be better achieved with international institutions than without them, the mere existence of international institutions is no guarantee of good governance. Apart from producing effective solutions to problems within the fields of security and welfare, governance must also fulfil certain procedural requirements in order to be rated as good. From the point of view of democratic theory, however, international institutions have very shaky foundations. Against this background, Robert Dahl (1994) pointed almost paradigmatically to a fundamental dilemma of politics in the age of globalization: the contradiction between "system effectiveness and citizen participation." This paper aims at questioning the notion of a contradiction between – to use the terms of Fritz Scharpf (1997b) – output legitimacy (acceptance created by system effectiveness) and input legitimacy (acceptance created by democratic procedures). I shall first argue that viewing the problem as a choice between "effective problem-solving through international institutions" and "democractic political processes" is already in normative terms a false approach (Section 1). International institutions not only increase system effectiveness or output-legitimacy, but are also a normatively sensible response to the problems for democracy that are caused by globalization. At the same time, it is indisputable that the actual functioning of these international institutions does not meet democratic standards. In Section 2 I present the skeptical argument that most deficits in the working of international institutions cannot easily be remedied, since democratic majority decisions depend – in descriptive terms – on a political community that is based on trust and solidarity. Although other forms of transnational interest aggregation, such as intergovernmental bargaining and arguing among transnational epistemic communities may exist, the lack of a transnational demos combined with the existence of transnational social spaces poses a problem that cannot easily be overcome. Skeptics therefore see a structural dilemma that cannot be reconciled by democratizing international institutions; to a certain extent they are necessary for effective policies, but they are structurally undemocratic. The skeptical argument is founded on two more or less explicit background hypotheses that can be empirically challenged. The first background hypothesis states that a demos cannot exist at the transnational level. In Section 3, I will modify this statement in theoretical terms and offer some conceptual distinctions that may prepare the ground for further empirical investigation. The second background hypothesis of the skeptics postulates a zero-sum relationship between national sovereignty and supranationality. Thus, any institutional solution between the poles of nation-state sovereignty and supranational statehood, be it the EU or a world state, will necessarily encroach on both system effectiveness and democratic legitimation. Against this background I shall in Section 4 make some concrete institutional proposals that undermine the zero-sum logic of the skeptics, concluding that in a denationalized society, democratic legitimation can only be achieved by a mixed constitution comprising majority procedures and negotiation mechanisms. The problems and issues discussed in this paper have emerged in different contexts, most prominently in the debate on the democratic deficit of the EU. The EU is a special case since it represents a new type of political system, made up of national and European institutions which are constituted in relation to each other. West European national institutions and the EU institutions are so closely interwoven that they can no longer be conceived as separate political systems (see Jachtenfuchs/Kohler-Koch 1996; Marks et al. 1996). This multi-level system of the EU has two distinct features that seperate it from other international institutions. First, the regulations issued in the different European sectors (European regimes, if you wish) are so closely related to each other that as a network they affect a number of political issue areas at once within a more or less clearly defined territory. This justifies the use of the terms European Community and multi-level system. In contrast, issue-specific international institutions such as international regimes are more functional, and the sum of any number of international regimes does not cover a recognizable territorial space. Here, the term multi-level politics (for each specific institution) is more appropriate. The second distinctive feature of the EU multi-level system is that in contrast to international regimes, which are by and large passive, some European institutions, such as the European Court of Justice and the European Commission, are indeed supranational in that they have authoritative powers which directly affect national administrations and societies. In spite of these far-reaching differences, the thrust of this paper applies to both international institutions in general and the European Union in particular. Where specific steps in the argumentation refer to one or the other type of institution I shall qualify my statements accordingly.

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