After the Crash: A Perspective on Multilevel European Democracy

At the end of the postwar period, the politically shaped con gurations of normatively integrated European political economies differed greatly among “social-market” and “liberal market economies.” Such differences persist even though the characteristic achievements of social market economies have since eroded under the pressures of global capitalism and of European integration. Focusing on European integration from a social-market perspective, there is no question that it has widened the range of individual options. But it has also reduced the capacity of democratic politics to deal with the challenges of global capitalism, and it has contributed to rising social inequality and the erosion of public services and transfers.

This paper will first summarize those asymmetries of European integration which have done the most to constrain democratic choices and to shift the balance between capital, labor, and the state by establishing an institutional priority of negative over positive integration and of monetary integra- tion over political and social integration. It will then explain why efforts to democratize European politics will not be able to overcome these institutional asymmetries and why politically feasible reforms will not be able to remove the institutional constraints. The changes that would be required to restore democratic capacities to shape the political economy could only have a chance if present veto positions were to be fundamentally shaken. On the speculative assumption that the aftermath of a deep crisis might indeed create the window of opportunity for a political re-foundation of Euro- pean integration, the concluding section will outline institutional ground rules that would facilitate democratic political action at both the European and national levels.

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