9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 New Modes of Governance in Europe Building I, 2E10

Strained Constitutionalism in New Member States

Strained Constitutionalism in New Member States

New EU member states seem to face a dual poblématique: the crisis of the state-centred, constitutional democratic model in its West-European, Westphalian guise as well as the distinct political problems resulting from the political transformation to some form of democracy. So far, the analysis of democratisation processes in ECE has for an important part centred on the establishment of the rule in law and constitutional states in the post-communist societies. In this, however, insufficient attention is paid to the delegitimising trends that affect conventional forms of constitutionalism, in particular regarding the integrative function of constitutions, i.e., the extent to which constitutions are actually reflecting widely shared values, and contribute to (the legitimation of) democracy and popular sovereignty. In particular, national and subnational solutions in the form of democratic participation and self-governance are insufficiently considered.
The paper seeks to address this lacuna by developing an alternative approach to the "democratic deficit" of the ECE countries, pointing to an alternative form of societal integration and constitutional legitimation of politics that potentially emerges from below, in the form of local and regional forms of democracy. It focusses on the integrative, democratic implications that decentralisation and distinct interpretations of the subsidiarity principle might have in constitutional terms, and the way such phenomena might counter the lack of integrative and symbolic potential of modern constitutional regimes.
The paper theorises the relations between democratisation and constitutionalism in the context of European integration, and identifies the main problematic areas of national constitutions in the context of the changed nature of the nation-state in terms of sovereignty and socio-cultural pluralism. It further elaborates on alternative forms of symbolic rationality based on innovative forms of democratic participation, deliberation, and self-governance. In this, the paper proposes an original theoretical and analytical understanding of changing constitutionalism in the European context in general, and in New Member States, in particular.