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The Adaptive Approach to Democracy: A New Look at Democratic Governance in the European Union

Lotz, Andrew (2010) The Adaptive Approach to Democracy: A New Look at Democratic Governance in the European Union. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Consideration of the democratic qualities of supranational institutions—specifically the European Union (EU)—consistently display a reliance upon principles of democracy as they are found in nation-states. While there is considerable discussion about the problems that this reliance poses, finding strategies for avoiding that reliance, especially in the case of the EU, has proven difficult. This study examines the way in which European institutions are judged by democratic criteria, and demonstrates the problems that come with replicating state-bound principles of democracy as if they say something about a perceived deficit in European-level democracy. Instead of rigidity in principles, what is needed to examine democracy at the supranational level is a fluid and flexible approach that still provides a robust understanding of what is happening (and not happening) democratically in the institutions of focus. The adaptive approach to democracy, using a framework that distinguishes between first-order principles and second-order principles of democracy, is a tool that provides this flexible yet robust perspective. This approach views democracy as clusters of different principles at work in a variety of institutions, rather than as a specific set "laundry list" of principles that must be included for a system to be judged democratic or not. This approach is particularly valuable for supranational institutions, where assumptions about democracy make a rigid lens for analysis. This rigidity can cause descriptions of supranational institutions to either miss new ways of democracy being met or to result in excessive reliance upon a defined set of democratic principles that are misfit to the institution in question. This study lays out the adaptive approach, based upon the central first-order principles of freedom and equality. Then through three case studies of EU institutions the method is employed: focus is upon the European Parliament (the traditional spot for democratic hopes to be hung), the European Court of Justice (an institution often considered to have the most undemocratic features in the EU), and Daphne, a Commission program against gendered violence (an under-explored location where democratic principles can be found working in unexpected ways).


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGoodhart,
Committee MemberFollesdal,
Committee MemberPeters, B. Guybgpeters@pitt.eduBGPETERS
Committee MemberWhelan, Fredrickfwhelan@pitt.eduFWHELAN
Date: 28 January 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 1 April 2008
Approval Date: 28 January 2010
Submission Date: 4 December 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Daphne Programme; democracy; equality; European Court of Justice; European Parliament; European Union; freedom
Other ID:, etd-12042009-150232
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:08
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:53


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