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Power and LegitimacyReconciling Europe and the Nation-State$
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Peter L. Lindseth

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390148

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390148.001.0001

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Reconciling Europe and the Nation-State in Law and History

Reconciling Europe and the Nation-State in Law and History

(p.1) Introduction Reconciling Europe and the Nation-State in Law and History
Power and Legitimacy

Peter L. Lindseth

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter provides a brief summary of the book's argument—the administrative, not constitutional character of supranational governance in the European Union (EU), and the convergence of European public law around the legitimating structures and normative principles of the postwar constitutional settlement. The chapter outlines several key distinctions and concepts on which the argument is based, including: representative government, democratic legitimacy, and their relationship to European integration; administrative governance and the distinction between control and legitimation of regulatory power; and the importance of national oversight, if not control, in the legitimation of Europeanized administrative governance. This chapter introduces the notion of ‘historically constituted bodies’ (legislative, executive, executive, or judicial) as the repositories of representative government and democratic and constitutional legitimacy in the European system. It then relates the process of European integration historiographically to the process of diffusion and fragmentation of regulatory power away from these bodies that has been the principle characteristic of modern administrative governance since the 19th century. The chapter argues that, even as regulatory power has diffused and fragmented (first nationally, then supranationally), it has remained dependent on historically constituted bodies of representative government on the national level for legitimation, if not control. This chapter also outlines the elements of the theory of institutional change that supports the entire analysis, operating along three interrelated dimensions—functional, political, and cultural. It argues that, for a durable constitutional settlement to occur, these various dimensions must be ‘reconciled.’ It further argues that the national legitimating mechanisms described in the remainder of the book have developed to do the work of reconciliation that this introductory chapter describes.

Keywords:   European Union, postwar constitutional settlement, administrative governance, representative government, oversight, historically constituted bodies, diffusion of regulatory power, fragmentation of regulatory power, legitimacy-control distinction, institutional change, reconciliation

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