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Popular Democracy and the European Union Polity


  • Mair, Peter


Although we still celebrate the late twentieth-century ‘victory of democracy’, our understanding of what democracy entails in both theory and practice is increasingly subject to a variety of qualifying definitions, many of which now seem to devalue the role of elections and electoral accountability. This is also obviously seen in the politics of the European Union, where the efforts to displace conflict dimensions into arenas where democratic authority is lacking, as well as the efforts to depoliticize issues that relate to European integration, have led to the development of a distinct political system in which the exercise of popular control and electoral accountability proves very difficult. At the same time, the EU should not be seen as exceptional in this regard, but should instead be seen as symptomatic of a wider process of depoliticization. As the experience of the EU suggests, the combination of popular democracy and legitimacy is proving increasingly problematic – not only in Europe, but also further afield.

Suggested Citation

  • Mair, Peter, 2005. "Popular Democracy and the European Union Polity," European Governance Papers (EUROGOV) 3, CONNEX and EUROGOV networks.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:eurogo:p0003

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Brittan, Samuel, 1975. "The Economic Contradictions of Democracy," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 129-159, April.
    2. repec:cup:apsrev:v:64:y:1970:i:04:p:1033-1053_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Erik Oddvar Eriksen & John Erik Fossum, 2002. "Democracy through Strong Publics in the European Union?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 401-424, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Camille Bedock & Peter Mair and Alex Wilson, 2012. "Institutional Change in Advanced European Democracies: an exploratory assessment," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 11, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    2. Camille Bedock & Peter Mair and Alex Wilson, 2012. "Institutional Change in Advanced European Democracies: an exploratory assessment," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 11, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    3. Vololona Rabeharisoa & Orla O'Donovan, 2013. "‘Europe of patients, Europe for patients’: the Europeanization of healthcare policies by European patients’ organizations," CSI Working Papers Series 030, Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation (CSI), Mines ParisTech.

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    constitutional change; democracy; Europeanization; governance; legitimacy; non-majoritarian institutions; political parties; political representation; polity building;

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