Directly-Deliberative Polyarchy



This essay by Joshua Cohen and Charles Sabel promotes visions of democracy, constitutionalism and institutional innovations which may help to open up new dimensions in the search for legitimate European governance structures and their constitutionalisation. Faced with Europe's legitimacy problems, proponents of the European project often react by pointing to the many institutional failings in the (national) constitutional state. These reactions, however, seem simplistic, offering no normatively convincing alternatives to the once undisputed legitimacy of a now eroding nation state. The essay by Cohen and Sabel forecloses such strategies. Summarising and endorsing critiques of both the unfettered market system and the manner of its regulatory and political correction, it concludes that the many efforts to establish new equilibria between well-functioning markets and well-ordered political institutions are doomed to fail, and opts instead for fundamental change: conservative in their strict defence of fundamental democratic ideals, such ideas are radical in their search for new institutional arrangements which bring democratic values directly to bear. How is the concept of directly-deliberative polyarchy complementary to and reconcilable with our notions of democratic constiutionalism? To this question the readers of the essay will find many fascinating answers. Equally, however, how might the debate on the normative and practical dilemmas of the European system of governance profit from these deliberations? Which European problem might be resolved with the aid of the emerging and new direct forms of democracy identified in this essay? How might direct democracy interact with the intergovernmentalist and the functionalist elements of the EU system? Although this essay contains no certain answers to these European questions, its challenging messages will be understood in European debates.