• European Union;
  • experimentalist governance;
  • democracy;
  • learning;
  • representation


This article critically engages with Sabel and Zeitlin's important notion of experimentalist governance (EG). It is cast as a “recursive process of provisional goal-setting and revision based on learning from the comparison of alternative approaches to advancing them in different contexts.” This is a useful heuristic device to capture policymaking and implementation in complex, dynamic, and highly diverse political entities. This article discusses the micro-foundations underpinning EG, how it relates to hierarchical modes of governing, and how well it captures the distinctive traits of the EU. It also discusses EG from a democratic perspective. In democratic terms EG is understood as a form of direct deliberative polyarchy. This article notes that the question of EG's contribution to democratization cannot, however, be adequately addressed unless we pay more systematic attention to representation and representative democracy.