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Article

Ever since Aristotle, the comparative study of political regimes and their performance has relied on classifications and typologies. The study of democracy today has been influenced heavily by Arend Lijphart’s typology of consensus versus majoritarian democracy. Scholars have applied it to more than 100 countries and sought to demonstrate its impact on no less than 70 dependent variables. This paper summarizes our knowledge about the origins, functioning, and consequences of two basic types of democracy: those that concentrate power and those that share and divide power. In doing so, it will review the experience of established democracies and question the applicability of received wisdom to new democracies.

Article

The publication of John Rawls’s Political Liberalism put public reason squarely on the agenda of contemporary political theory. Ever since, it has been a central topic in the field. Although Rawls developed a distinctive account of public reason, his account is but one among many. Indeed, some commentators have insisted that public reason is a very old notion, one that can be found in the political writings of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant, for example. Public reason has a distinctive subject matter. It applies to the common good of a modern political society and the political institutions that serve that common good, and it contrasts with forms of reasoning that apply to less inclusive associations and communities that exist within a modern political society, such as churches, voluntary clubs, or professional associations. Public reason also contrasts with applications of reason that are not transparent and/or acceptable to adult citizens of modern political societies. The demands of transparency and acceptability have proven to be complex and contentious, and rival articulations of these notions have generated rival accounts of public reason. Public reason informs public political justification, and proponents of public reason often hold that public, political justification of at least the fundamental political arrangements of a political society is necessary for its political order to be legitimate. The reasons for insisting on public reason and the reasons for rejecting it are diverse. Common to all defenses of public reason is the thought that it represents a fitting response to the fact of intractable disagreement in modern political societies.

Article

Karl Magnus Johansson

Membership in the European Union (EU) entails adjustments or changes in national democracies. Sweden joined the EU in 1995, and EU membership has given rise to controversies in the public debate as well as in the academic community. In an effort to legitimize membership in the public debate, the consequences in terms of sovereignty were summarized in the official Swedish discourse on EU membership as a loss in formal sovereignty but an increase in real sovereignty. This entailed a reinterpretation of popular sovereignty, as stipulated by the Swedish constitution, as well as of democracy, implying that efficiency or problem-solving capacity was emphasized more than procedural democracy. The controversy surrounding the question of influence came to the fore in connection with the euro referendum in 2003. While some argued that remaining outside the euro would come with a political price—marginalization—others emphasized the lack of evidence for such effects. To some extent, this remains a moot point, not least as a result of the expansion and importance of the euro zone. Another salient question is whether or not there is political opposition, that is, conflict rather than consensus in EU affairs. Research claims that (allegedly almost nonexistent) previous research had underestimated the degree of political opposition or conflict, notably in parliament. Moreover, results suggest that there is variation in EU opposition across time and policy areas. In addition there are different interpretations of either decentering or centering effects. Whereas some claim that fragmentation or decentralization is the central feature of the Europeanization of the Swedish state, other researchers submit that the predominant tendency is rather centralization, as the demands of EU decision making—not least EU summitry—on national policy coordination have been a principal driving factor in this process. These are main themes in the debate over the EU and EU membership in Sweden. Included here are a series of analytical narratives and counternarratives, as well as a discussion of important implications for the national democracy and for the distribution or redistribution of power among domestic political actors therein.

Article

The Council of Ministers, officially known as the Council of the European Union (EU), is a single legal composition of national ministers who meet in policy-specific formations to negotiate and adopt EU policies and laws. The Council is more than just the ministers; they depend on an infrastructure of preparatory bodies and specialist working groups, as well as rotating and permanent leadership positions and an internal bureaucracy, the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC). Over time, the Council has undergone formal restructuring, such as sharing colegislative authority with the European Parliament (EP), now called the “ordinary legislative procedure” (OLP), and redesigning how majority voting works. The Council has also witnessed informal organizational change, especially in internal pecking-order dynamics and techniques to reach consensus-based outcomes. EU Council research has documented formal and informal decision-making dynamics, especially related to voting and consensus practices, although there is no real agreement on how formal and informal rules interact to influence the context of negotiations. There is still a divergence of interpretation in how the Council actually works, such as whether consensus is a “culture” of mutual accommodation subject to group standards or is instead a façade of relative power. As an institution, the Council deliberately promotes clublike networks of like-minded national policy specialists and experts who meet in repeat, face-to-face interactions and make collective decisions in mostly nontransparent (in camera) settings of insulation from domestic audiences. However, in the post-Maastricht era of EU politics since the early 1990s, the way the Council works is also increasingly debated in terms of transparency, accountability, and legitimacy.

Article

Following the end of the Cold War, the hegemony of the United States in Latin America was intimately related to the globalization of the hemispheric political economy. Free-trade agreements (FTAs) were crucial to this process, helping to extend and entrench the neoliberal model. As a result of the region’s political turn to the left during the 2000s, however, the Washington Consensus became increasingly untenable. As U.S. trade policy subsequently moved in the direction of a “post-Washington Consensus,” the “Pink Tide” fostered the creation of Latin American-led approaches to integration independent of the United States. In this context, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was designed to catalyse a new wave of (neo)liberalization among its 12 participating countries, including the United States, Canada, Chile, Peru, and Mexico. The TPP codified an updated and comprehensive set of rules on an array of trade and investment disciplines not covered in existing agreements. Strategically linking the Asia-Pacific to the Americas, but excluding China, the TPP responded to China’s growing economic presence in Asia and Latin America. Largely a creation of U.S. foreign economic policy, the United States withdrew from the TPP prior to its ratification and following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. The remaining 11 countries signed a more limited version of the agreement, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which is open to future participation by the United States and other countries in Asia and Latin America. The uncertainties in the TPP process represented the further erosion of Washington’s “free trade” consensus, reflecting, among other things, a crisis of U.S. hegemony in the Americas.

Article

Elfriede Regelsberger

European Political Cooperation (EPC) is the forerunner of today’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU. It covers the period 1970 to 1993, during which the member states of the (then called) European Communities (EC) developed a genuine system of cooperation in the field of foreign policy. Its main purpose was to secure and even increase the influence of European countries on the international scene in times of growing global political and economic interdependencies. At the same time, EPC was generally perceived as an area and approach to foster the political dimension of the European integration process. EPC was widely intergovernmental in nature. Its guiding principles and institutions were based on political commitments (the Luxembourg (1970), Copenhagen (1973), and London (1981) Reports). EPC received a first legal framework only in1986 with the Single European Act (SEA). EPC was the domain of the foreign ministers assisted by their national diplomatic staffs. Mainly for reasons of consistency, the European Commission was gradually admitted to the club and the European Parliament struggled hard to get access and be heard to a certain degree at least. EPC was consensus-based and widely declaratory in nature. Issues of security and even more of defense were highly controversial among the participants and therefore widely excluded from the agenda. In order to strengthen the European voice, that is, to become more active and more operational, EPC diplomacy had to take recourse to EC instruments like trade, sanctions, and development policy, and fine-tune its presence in the world. To sell its own model of integration to other parts of the world became a popular approach, most obvious in the numerous group-to-group dialogues established during the 1980s, while European responses to conflict situations remained below the level of EPC ambitions. The end of the East–West divide, the war in Iraq and in the former Yugoslavia, German unification, and EU internal dynamics, such as the successful completion of the internal market program, revealed the shortcomings of the EPC in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and paved the way for a qualitatively new system: the CFSP. Academic research on EPC was far less numerous and less diversified than it is today on CFSP. Its origins date back to a small group of scholars primarily working on the EC and/or interested in the foreign and EC policy of their respective countries. Their approach was less theoretical and more empirical and aimed to grasp the concept as such, which was not so easy during non-digital times and when EPC took place behind closed doors. EPC was seen as a relevant topic because of its new institutions and procedures and of the relevant forces driving the system further. Its evolution over more than two decades was described as constant movement though gradual process along various stages. Research was very much inward-looking, that is, the interplay of EPC at both the national and the EC level—today known as the governance question—was of great interest. Enlargement from the original six participating governments to 12 from 1986 onwards also became a case in point (raising the issue of adaptation processes (the Europeanization) of national bureaucracies and EPC decision-making (socialization, esprit de corps) and policy substance). To the extent EPC gained some international presence (e.g., in the United Nations) and profile (the acquis politique) on key international issues (such as the Middle East conflict, East–West relations), the question of EPC actorness attracted attention from wider academic circles. But how to measure the successes and failures of EPC and which yardsticks to apply here remained a challenge.

Article

Monika Mühlböck

Together, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the European Union form the bicameral legislature of the European Union (EU). However, as the analysis of voting behavior shows, decision-making is structured differently in the two institutions. In the EP, competition takes place between European party groups along a left-right and a rising pro-anti EU integration dimension. In the Council, ideology and party politics play a minor role. Voting behavior of ministers is determined by different national interests on an issue-by-issue basis. Furthermore, voting in the Council is dominated by the so-called culture of consensus. Despite the extension of qualified majority voting (QMV) to most areas of EU decision-making, many legislative proposals are adopted unanimously. Even if there is dissent, it is usually only one or two member states voting against the proposal. This makes it difficult to discover patterns of conflict and coalition formation through Council voting data. At the same time, consensus-seeking is something the Council and the EP have in common. In the EP, voting cohesion is high not only within groups but also in the EP plenary as a whole, with a grand coalition between Social Democrats and Conservatives forming frequently, often including the Liberals as well as parties on the left side of the political spectrum. Notwithstanding signs of a decline in consensual decision-making in the wake of the financial and the migration crisis, voting cohesion dominates within the Council and the EP, as well as across institutions in bicameral decision-making.