This chapter focuses on the challenge that comparative politics faces due to processes of de-nationalization, and discusses the notion of multi-level governance used to conceptualize political phenomena in de-nationalized contexts. The first section of the chapter explains why the principle of national sovereignty is so important to comparative politics, why this principle can no longer be assumed as given, and how developments related to the erosion of national sovereignty challenge comparative politics. The second section of the chapter introduces the notion of multi-level governance, which has been developed since the early 1990s for political analysis in strongly de-nationalized settings. It retraces the scientific history of multi-level governance, which was originally used as a descriptor of policy-making in the EU, then conceptually specified, and recently worked out as a theory of state-transformation. The third section of the chapter depicts the current research agenda of scholarship on multi-level governance, and discusses the contributions to topics and themes of comparative politics, but also identifies some blind spots – notably the analysis of power struggles – where insights from comparative politics could make a fruitful contribution.
Fernando Mendez, Roman Zwicky and Daniel Kübler
Chapter 4 by Fernando Mendez, Roman Zwicky and Daniel Kübler deals with the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) from a comparative perspective. In this chapter the authors take stock of the European Union’s most recent democratic innovation, the ECI, with a view to evaluating its potential to live up to its democratic potential. In doing so they adopt a threefold strategy. First, they unpack the institutional features of the ECI to situate it within a broader universe of relatively well-understood mechanisms of direct democracy. Second, on the basis of an analysis of all ECI initiatives to date, they present some general trends regarding its use and functioning. The third, more speculative, analysis looks at possible institutional trajectories for the ECI based on our largely comparative analysis. Their findings suggest that the ECI is far from being unique and that some of the problems that surround its functioning are common to other systems. In addition, despite its novelty, they can already detect some general patterns as well as indirect effects on member states. Whether the instrument could ever fulfil its democratic potential, let alone empower European citizens, remains very much an open question. The evidence thus far presents a mixed picture.