HANDBUCH DER POLITISCHEN PHILOSOPHIE UND SOZIALPHILOSOPHIE, pp. 1307-1313, S. Gosepath, W. Hinsch and B. Rössler, eds., Gruyter, 2008
22 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2008
The "principle of subsidiarity" regulates authority within a political order, directing that powers or tasks should rest with the lower-level sub-units of that order unless allocating them to a higher level central unit would ensure higher comparative efficiency or effectiveness in achieving them. This principle has come to political prominence primarily through its role in quelling fears of centralization in the European Union, last as expressed in Article III-9, III-160 and a Protocol of the Draft Constitutional Treaty of the EU. But subsidiarity has also figured in discussions of the proper scope for local autonomy for social policies in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and in Green party calls for decentralization quite generally. A survey of alternative interpretations and justifications of the principle of subsidiarity suggests that apparent consensus on it has been gained only by obfuscation. Section I sketches the political backdrop of the debate within the European Union where, rather than reducing and removing fundamental political conflicts, the principle of subsidiarity increases and shapes such tensions. In Sections II and III, I delineate alternative conceptions of the principle of subsidiarity and its possible institutional role. The alternatives have strikingly different institutional implications regarding the objectives of the polity, the domain and role of sub-units, and the allocation of authority to apply the principle of subsidiarity itself. The need for a political theory of subsidiarity thus established, Sections IV through IX present and assess five alternative normative justifications of conceptions of subsidiarity, illustrated by reference to the European Union.
Keywords: European Union, Centralization, Subsidiarity, Political Theory
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