REFLEX workshop on non-majoritarian institutions and democracy
The research project REFLEX will organize the workshop 'Making Non-Majoritarian Institutions Safe for Democracy' on 20-21 June in Oslo.
The European Banking Authority (EBA) is one of three supervisory authorities for the financial sector in the EU (photo: EBA)
Knowledge-based decision-making is indispensable to modern democracies; they cannot function without delegating some tasks to knowledge-producing bodies that are politically sheltered. Expertise is needed to run bureaucracies and agencies as well as to explain and justify policies to the general public in whose name policies are pursued. Thus, modern government relies on the delegation of a wide range of tasks to non-majoritarian institutions (NOMIS), such as central banks, international institutions, and independent agencies. From financial regulation to environmental protection, expert bodies vested with public authority conduct work necessary for polities’ day-to-day functioning and long-term stability. The increasing power of NOMIS has raised concerns about the displacement of democratic authorization and control and the rise of epistocracy/technocracy. How can such concerns be addressed in terms of both accuracy and potential remedy?
There are many potential sources of legitimacy for NOMIS, such as participatory inclusiveness, claims to expertise, and exposure to accountability mechanisms. However, it is unclear what reasons support these measures and what they entail in practice. Is there a common conceptual frame that can help us assess the democratic responsiveness of these institutions?
Understanding these challenges requires insight into the way NOMIS are embedded in the political landscape. It is therefore necessary to have multi-disciplinary venue for discussing legitimacy concerns regarding such institutions. Only by a precise diagnosis of the threats NOMIS pose can we propose strategies for making them safe for democracy.
The workshop is organised as part of the REFLEX project at ARENA.