Chapter 16: The Problem of Democratic Legitimacy in a Supranational Government
16. The problem of democratic legitimacy in a supranational government Torbjörn Larsson and Guenther F. Schaefer INTRODUCTION The ambition in this chapter is to discuss to what extent traditional sources of democratic legitimacy can also be generated in a supranational European government.1 In deﬁning legitimacy, three different methods are normally used. The ﬁrst one, from a sociological perspective, stresses the extent to which the public is prepared to accept the government’s authority. The other one, from a legal perspective, emphasises whether the rulers have established and are adhering to predeﬁned rules and regulations concerning public decision making. The third method builds on a culture of legitimacy, individuals sharing common values (language, ethnic origin, race, history, and so on) establish their own authority which is accepted as being part of a unique people or state. In other words, what goes into the decision-making machine as well as what comes out of it is of importance and it is possible to argue that non-democratic governments have legitimacy as well as democratic ones. But when legitimacy is applied to democratic governments the two concepts – legitimacy and democracy – become closely linked.2 Over the years the political system of the European Union has been compared to several other types of democratic government leading to the conclusion that it is rather different, if not unique. Thus, the European Union has been compared and contrasted to a parliamentary (majoritarian) or consensual government as well as with a federal (power sharing) government – all with different...
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