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Multi‐Level Democracy

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Modern democratic polities regularly operate at several political levels. In the case of the EU at the level of the member‐states and the EU itself, and in addition at federal, regional, and municipal levels. Is there any democratic rule to determine which level is more legitimate than the others? The article argues that from a majoritarian perspective there is none. Individual citizens may have quite different preferences with regard to the level that is of particular political importance for them. The article critically analyses different concepts, from sovereignty to demos, subsidiarity, and the judicial review of competences, and tries to show that none of them can provide a solution to the dilemma. Instead, democratic theory has to assume that in the co‐evolutionary process of institutions and societies at different political levels, the question of the final say has to be left open.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Faculty of Law, Unter den Linden 9, D-10099 Berlin, Germany,

Publication date: September 1, 2011


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