Depoliticisation and Its Legitimacy Problems

ARENA Working Paper 3/2020 (pdf)

Erik Oddvar Eriksen

Image may contain: Text, Organism, Document, Font.Non-majoritarian institutions (NOMIS), such as agencies and central banks, which prototypically act on a wide discretionary basis, cannot simply defer to the legislator’s command or to instrumental rationality. NOMIS operates within large zones of discretion and they deal with values and policy ends, not only the means. Hence, the spectre of arbitrary rule. NOMIS are challenging from the point of view of democratic legitimacy. By bringing together different research traditions, this paper identifies different ways of mending the legitimacy problems: the evidence-based strategy, the legislators’ command strategy and the participatory strategy. These strategies all come with shortcomings. The article suggests a justificatory account of NOMIS premised on the reason-giving principle, which allow us to see them as endowed with a democratic obligation. NOMIS are specialised not only on means-ends relations but on the viability and justifiability of political ends, as well.


This paper is part of the project Democracy and Expert Rule: The Quest for Reflexive Legitimacy (REFLEX), funded by the Research Council of Norway (project number 250436).

Tags: Arbitrary Rule, Non-Majoritarian Institutions, Legitimacy, Participation, Public reason
Published Sep. 4, 2020 3:09 PM - Last modified Sep. 4, 2020 3:13 PM