RECON Online Working Paper 2008/11

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Some Indicators of the Democratic Performance of the European Union and How They Might Relate to the RECON Models


Christopher Lord (University of Reading)



This paper argues that indicators of democratic performance should in the first instance be selected for their normative defensibility, rather than their empirical measurability. Yet democratic theory is a hard task-master in setting conditions for the normative derivation of indicators. It at once requires minimum conditions that any polity must meet in order to be classified as democratic and implies that those minimum conditions can only tell us a part of what we need to know if we are to make a satisfactory assessment of democratic rule. The paper argues that the dilemma is best solved through the following steps. First by understanding that both the main types of justification for democracy - intrinsic and consequential – imply the same necessary condition: namely, public control with political equality. Second by identifying corollaries of ‘public control with political equality’ and then using them to specify minimum standards of democracy. Third by clarifying what room democratic theory itself leaves for differences of value preferences in how ‘public control with political equality’ should be realised in practice. The paper argues that this approach is both richly suggestive of minimum standards (it proposes nine) and accommodative of reasonable and recursive disagreement in how those minimum standards ought to be specified in a particular time or place. The value of the approach – its ability to produce contrasting but comparable indicators of democratic performance that speak both to a common core of normative standards and to reasonable difference in their final specification – is illustrated using the RECON models.


Accountability – Civil Society – Deliberative Democracy – Democracy – European Parliament, EP – Institutions – Majority Voting – National Parliaments

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