The European Public(s) and its Problems

In Hauke Brunkhorst, Charlotte Gaitanides & Gerhard Grözinger (eds.), Europe at a Crossroad: From Currency Union to Political and Economic Governance? Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft. pp. 19-59 (2015)
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I present three versions –Grimm, Offe and Streeck—of a general argument that is often used to establish that the EU-institutions meets a legitimacy-disabling condition, the so called “no demos” argument (II), embedding them in the context of the notorious “democratic deficit” suspicions against the legal system and practice of the EU (I). After examining the logical structure behind the no-demos intuition considered as an argument (III), I present principled reasons by Möllers and Habermas that show why the “no demos” argument fails to have bite in discussions of the legitimacy and status of the supranational level in the multi-level EU-architecture. These are complemented by another principled reason arising from John Dewey’s conception of the “public” as a clearer alternative for the “popular” requirement of democratic legitimation (IV). I conclude that all three conceptions together suggest that the hunt after pre-politically existing peoples as foundations of democratic legitimacy expresses no more than methodological nationalism without any footing in the material and conceptual requirements of democratic legitimation. Given the absence of a principled problem with the legitimacy of the priority and interference of supranational EU-law in the national legal and political orders, there are thus also no principled reasons to abandon or discredit the European project in the absence of a European nation or society.

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Axel Mueller
Northwestern University


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