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 13: The metabolic constitution and the limits of EU legal pluralism

Peter Lindseth


The ‘constitution’ of power depends on sociopolitical mechanisms to mobilize human and fiscal resources in a legitimate and compulsory fashion. This ‘metabolic’ function is the essential element of any genuinely ‘constituted’ public authority, not least, as this chapter elaborates, in the European Union. Even as the EU has come to enjoy extensive normative-regulatory power (hence giving rise to a highly pluralist legal system), the ultimate authority to mobilize resources in the EU has remained stubbornly and overwhelmingly national. This distribution of power – vertically ‘multilevel’ in a legal and regulatory (that is, administrative) sense but horizontally ‘polycentric’ in a robustly democratic and constitutional sense – has effectively defined the limits of EU legal pluralism over the course of integration history. It also helps us appreciate the EU’s deeper ‘administrative, not constitutional’ character, which has been especially clear in the various crises that have persistently confronted the integration process over the past decade.

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