Research Handbook on Legal Pluralism and EU Law
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Research Handbook on Legal Pluralism and EU Law

Edited by Gareth Davies and Matej Avbelj

The Research Handbook on Legal Pluralism and EU Law explores the diversity of phenomenon of overlapping legal systems within the European Union, the nature of their interactions, and how they deal with the difficult question of the legal hierarchy between them. The contributors reflect on the history, sociology and legal scholarship on constitutional and legal pluralism, and develop this further in the light of the challenges currently facing the EU.
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Chapter 3: Subverting sovereignty’s voluntarism: pluralism and subsidiarity in cahoots

Maria Cahill


Sovereignty’s lingering commitment to voluntarism and the limitations of the voluntarist approach are exposed by the crisis of authority represented by contradictory claims to ultimate authority on the part of the Court of Justice and national courts. While it is uncontroversial to assert that both pluralism and subsidiarity pose significant challenges to state sovereignty, this chapter argues that pluralism and subsidiarity threaten sovereignty not only because they allow for the reallocation of authority to institutions other than those of the nation state, but also because they call into question sovereignty’s fundamental assumption that authority is dominated by will, to the neglect of countervailing considerations. They offer solutions to this crisis of authority which finally tackle the problem of voluntarism, by deflecting focus away from the will and towards the good (higher moral principles), towards reasoned dialogue and towards a spirit of cooperation.

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