Handbook on Multi-level Governance
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Handbook on Multi-level Governance

Edited by Henrik Enderlein, Sonja Wälti and Michael Zürn

Scholarship of multi-level governance has developed into one of the most innovative themes of research in political science and public policy. This accessible Handbook presents a thorough review of the wide-ranging literature, encompassing various theoretical and conceptual approaches to multi-level governance and their application to policy-making in domestic, regional and global contexts.
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Chapter 4: Multi-level Europe – The Case for Multiple Concepts

Fritz W. Scharpf


Fritz W. Scharpf 1 The complexity of the multi-level European polity is not adequately represented by the single-level theoretical concepts of competing ‘intergovernmentalist’ and ‘supranationalist’ approaches. In contrast, empirical research focusing on multi-level interactions tends either to emphasize the uniqueness of its objects, or to create novel concepts – which are likely to remain contested even among Europeanists and have the effect of isolating European studies from the political science mainstream in international relations and comparative politics. These difficulties are bound to continue as long as researchers keep proposing holistic concepts that claim to represent the complex reality of the European polity as a whole. It is suggested that the present competition among poorly fitting and contested generalizations could be overcome if European studies made use of a plurality of simpler and complementary concepts, each of which is meant to represent the specific characteristics of certain subsets of multi-level interactions – which could also be applied and tested in other fields of political science research. The chapter goes on to describe four distinct modes of multi-level interaction in the European polity – ‘mutual adjustment’, ‘intergovernmental negotiations’, ‘joint decision making’ and ‘hierarchical direction’ – and to discuss their characteristics by reference to the criteria of problemsolving capacity and institutional legitimacy. The European Union (EU) and its member states have become a multi-level polity whose characteristics are poorly understood in public debates that are shaped by our conventional understanding of national politics and international relations. Hence there is no realistic understanding of the extent and the...

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