Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic?

Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic?

Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic?

Governing in Europe: Effective and Democratic?

Synopsis

The problem-solving capacity, and hence the democratic legitimacy, of national governments is being weakened by the dual processes of legal and economic integration in Europe; and the loss is not fully compensated by the development of effective and legitimate problem-solving capabilities atthe European level. Professor Scharpf supports his position by examining the normative underpinnings of democratic legitimacy and by a detailed analysis of the structural asymmetry between the effectiveness of the legal instruments of 'negative integration' which prevents governments frominterfering with the free movements of goods, services, capital, and persons and the political constraints impeding positive political action at the European level. This is particularly true for policies pertaining to the welfare state. Governing in Europe explores strategies at the national level that could succeed in maintaining welfare state goals even under conditions of international economic competition, and it also discusses the conditions under which European policy could play a protective and enabling role with regard tothese national solutions. The author suggests that if these opportunities should be used, multi-level governance in Europe could indeed regain both effectiveness and legitimacy.

Excerpt

In Western Europe, the collapse of communism was taken to confirm two fundamental convictions. The first postulates that political systems which, lacking legitimacy, must rely mainly on fear to compel compliance are not only hostile to human freedom and dignity, but are also functionally incompatible with economic efficiency and dynamic sociotechnical development. The second holds that, under modern conditions, the legitimacy of political systems has come to depend entirely on the belief in, and the practice of, democratic selfdetermination which must assure that government of the people must also be government by the people and for the people.

As it turned out, however, the external confirmation of basic convictions has not strengthened internal legitimacy beliefs in Western political systems themselves. In the few years since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the triumph of democracy has given way to a deep political malaise almost everywhere in the West. The sense that the collective fate of nations is in trustworthy and competent hands, and that civic obligations are to be accepted as a matter of course, has given way to widespread dissatisfaction with, and distrust of, democratically elected governments, and to a growing cynicism regarding the avoidance of taxes, military service, and other civic duties (Putnam 1996). Some suspect that the weakening of legitimacy beliefs might be related to specific deficiencies of political institutions (Colomer 1996). This is often plausible, but it is also true that two or three decades ago there was generally much more trust in government and more satisfaction with the efficacy of the democratic process than there . . .

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