Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Legitimacy Challenges for New Modes of Governance: Trustworthy Responsiveness

  • Andreas Føllesdal


Two typical features of new modes of governance (NMG) are of particular concern: (1) the delegation of regulatory activities to independent regulatory authorities at the national and the European level; and (2) regulatory networks outside the legislative arenas, with both private and public actors. These features tend to make the NMG less democratically accountable. Yet some hold that NMG can confer legitimacy on the European Union, especially because they secure ‘output’ more effectively than democratic arrangements, even though they lack any ‘input’ from voters. This article challenges these normative claims: the alleged benefits of NMG may be less than often claimed, while democratic accountability measures are less of a challenge to effectiveness and credibility, properly conceived.



Hide All

1 Scott, Joanne and Trubek, David, ‘Mind the Gap: Law and New Approaches to Governance in the European Union’, European Law Journal, 8: 1 (2002), pp. 118 .

2 Majone, Giandomenico, ‘A European Regulatory State?’, in Richardson, Jeremy J. (ed.), European Union: Power and Policy-Making, London, Routledge, 1996, pp. 263–77.

3 Manuele Citi and Martin Rhodes, ‘New Modes of Governance in the EU: Common Objectives versus National Preferences’, European Governance Papers (EUROGOV), N-07-01, Vienna, 2007, available at:

4 Sabel, Charles and Cohen, Joshua, ‘Sovereignty and Solidarity in the EU’, in Zeitlin, J. and Trubek, D. (eds), Governing Work and Welfare in a New Economy: European and American Experiments, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 345–75.

5 Héritier, Adrienne, ‘Elements of Democratic Legitimation in Europe: An Alternative Perspective’, Journal of European Public Policy, 6: 2 (1999), pp. 269–82, p. 273.

6 Smismans, Stijn, ‘New Modes of Governance and the Participatory Myth’, West European Politics, 31: 5 (2008), pp. 874–95.

7 Taylor, Michael, The Possibility of Cooperation, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1987 ; Levi, Margaret, Consent, Dissent and Patriotism, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1998 ; Kydd, Andrew H., Trust and Mistrust in International Relations, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2005 .

8 Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1971, p. 336 ; and cf. Scanlon, Thomas M., What We Owe to Each Other, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1998, p. 339 .

9 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract, New York, St Martin's Press, 1978, 2.4.5; James Madison, ‘Vices of the Political System of the United States’, in William T. Hutchinson (ed.), The Papers of James Madison, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1987, pp. 348–57; Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991; Fritz W. Scharpf, Games Real Actors Play: Actor-Centered Institutionalism in Policy Research, Boulder, CO, Westview, 1997; Glen Loury, ‘A Dynamic Theory of Racial Income Differences’, in Phyllis A. Wallance and Annette Le Mund (eds), Women, Minorities, and Employment Discrimination, Lexington, MA, Lexington Books, 1977; Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1993.

10 I here modify Margaret Levi's model of contingent consent found in Margaret Levi, ‘A State of Trust’, in Margaret Levi and Valerie Braithwaite (eds), Trust and Governance, New York, Russell Sage, 1998. Cf. Robert E. Goodin, Green Political Theory, Cambridge, Polity, 1992.

11 Tore Vincents Olsen, ‘United Under God? Or Not?’, in Lynn Dobson and Andreas Føllesdal (eds), Political Theory and the European Constitution, London, Routledge, 2004.

12 Fritz W. Scharpf, ‘Reflections on Multilevel Legitimacy’, MPlfG Working Paper 07/3, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, 2007 available at

13 Renaud Dehousse, ‘Towards a Regulation of Transitional Governance? Citizens' Rights and the Reform of Comitology Procedures’, in Christian Joerges and Ellen Vos (eds), EU Committees: Social Regulation, Law and Politics, Oxford, Hart, 1999, pp. 109–27; Héritier, ‘Elements of Democratic Legitimation in Europe’.

14 Levi, ‘A State of Trust’.

15 Héritier, ‘Elements of Democratic Legitimation in Europe’.

16 Føllesdal, Andreas and Hix, Simon, ‘Why There Is a Democratic Deficit in the EU: A Response to Majone and Moravcsik’, Journal of Common Market Studies, 44: 3 (2006), pp. 533–62.

17 Cf. Charles R. Beitz, Political Equality, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989; Ian Shapiro, Democracy's Place, Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1996; Albert Weale, Democracy, New York, St Martin's Press, 1999.

18 Simon Hix, What's Wrong with the EU and How to Fix It, Cambridge, Polity, 2008.

19 Hooge, Liesbeth and Marks, Gary, ‘Unravelling the Central State, but How? Types of Multi-Level Governance’, American Political Science Review, 97: 2 (2001), pp. 233–43.

20 Smismans, ‘New Modes of Governance and the Participatory Myth’.

21 Schmitter, Philippe C., ‘Still the Century of Corporatism?’, Review of Political Studies, 36 (1974), pp. 85131 ; David Held, Models of Democracy, Cambridge, Polity, 1987, p. 219; Thomas Christiansen, Andreas Føllesdal and Simona Piattoni, ‘Informal Governance in the European Union: An Introduction’, in Thomas Christiansen and Simona Piattoni (eds), Informal Governance in the European Union, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2004, pp. 1–21.

22 Kydland, Finn E. and Prescott, Edward C., ‘Rules Rather than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans’, Journal of Political Economy, 85 (1977), pp. 473–90.

23 For related arguments, cf. Majone, Giandomenico, ‘Europe's “Democratic Deficit”: The Question of Standards’, European Law Journal, 4: 1 (1998), pp. 528 .; and see Dehousse, Renaud, ‘Constitutional Reforms in the European Community: Are There Alternatives to the Majoritarian Avenue?’, West European Politics, 18: 3 (1995), pp. 118–36.

24 Bellamy, R., ‘Still in Deficit: Rights, Regulation and Democracy in the EU’, European Law Journal, 12: 3 (2006), pp. 737–78.

25 For an additional argument to this effect, see see Bellamy, R., ‘Democracy without Democracy?: Can the EU's Democratic “Outputs” Be Separated from the Democratic “Inputs” Provided by Competitive Parties and Majority Rule?’, Journal of European Public Policy, 17: 1 (2010), pp. 219 .

The Legitimacy Challenges for New Modes of Governance: Trustworthy Responsiveness

  • Andreas Føllesdal


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.