Unity, diversity and democratic institutions. What can we learn from the European Union as a large-scale experiment in political organization and governing?

In this paper the question of how to reconcile political unity and diversity, a classic problem of democratic theory, is applied to the evolving European polity. Specific emphasis is put on the dynamic behind voluntary cross-border cooperation and the consequences of such integration to the viability and democratic quality of constituent institutions.

ARENA Working Paper 13/2004 (pdf)

Johan P. Olsen

How to reconcile political unity and diversity is a key issue in both democratic practice and theory. Coping with this dilemma activates some basic questions about how we understand political actors, institutions and change. This paper suggests that the evolving European polity is an exciting site for exploring this issue. In particular, can the European experiment give a better general understanding of what factors influence the rise and decline of voluntary cooperative efforts across established entities and boundaries? Can it shed light upon what are the consequences for the component units when they become part of a larger entity? Can we learn something about the changing conditions of democratic institutions and actors and their significance for the dynamics of change in political orders?

Tags: governance, integration theory, neo-institutionalism, democracy, organization theory
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM