The Appeal of Independence: Exploring Europe's Way of Political Legitimacy

23 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2016

See all articles by Antoine Vauchez

Antoine Vauchez

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Date Written: December 7, 2016


Scholars generally agree that ‘independent institutions’ have become a ubiquitous and pervasive feature of EU polity. The blossoming of regulatory agencies, the critical role of the European Court of Justice, the salient position of the European Central Bank and of the Commission (particularly its powerful and quasi-autonomous DG Comp) have exemplified an overall process of delegation of governmental functions to institutions put at distance from direct diplomatic and electoral ‘pressures’. Yet, most accounts of this ‘rise of the unelected’ have stuck to sector-specific explanations providing idiosyncratic reasons for the ‘functionality’ of statutory independence in the different judicial, monetary, executive branches of EU government. As a result, we still fail to grasp the deep and cross-sectorial entanglement between ‘independence’ and the ‘European project’. This paper brings together recent streams of scholarship in historical sociology, critical legal scholarship and political science and uses them to suggest a renewed narrative of EU polity-formation, whereby ‘independence’ and ‘expertise’ form the very terrain on which Europe’s political capacity and specialised form of authority have been shaped, staged and consolidated.

Keywords: EU polity, expertise, market-making state, non-majoritarian institutions

Suggested Citation

Vauchez, Antoine, The Appeal of Independence: Exploring Europe's Way of Political Legitimacy (December 7, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Antoine Vauchez (Contact Author)

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique ( email )

14 rue Cujas
Departement de science politique
Paris, 75020

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