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Gendering the European Parliament

Technocracy or Democracy? European citizens’ perceptions of expert rule

Tina Freyburg
Universität St Gallen
Michael Buess
University of Lucerne
Sandra Lavenex
University of Geneva
Tina Freyburg
Universität St Gallen

Technocratic decision-making has not only becoming ever more common at the national level due to the growing complexity of political matters; the increasing denationalization of political challenges also gave birth to a growing number of networks, which bring together specialized state executives below the level of central government in order to exchange information, develop common regulatory standards, and assist one another in enforcing such standards in their respective jurisdictions. As with technocratic rule at the national level, some bemoan the lack of popular participation and control of these technocratic bodies while others see the delegation to apolitical experts as the best warrant of legitimate objective decisions. The two-faced nature of expert rule lies at the heart of this paper: It seems as if citizens want, on the one hand, rules to be made by those that are most competent and with appropriate expertise; at the same time, however, rule-makers shall be democratically legitimated and elected based on political competition. Overall, the question whether expertise-based rule making poses a challenge to democracy and legitimacy has been discussed controversially. Yet, we still know little about how citizens actually perceive technocratic decision-making. This paper addresses the tension between technocracy and democracy. Specifically, we argue that the perceptions and preferences of citizens are important for learning about the relationship between enlightened policy and the popular participation in consolidated democracies. We will explore these questions on the basis of individual-level data on citizens‘ perceptions of democracy, technocracy, as well as governance bodies beyond the state, collected in a cross-national survey conducted in four established European democracies (UK, F, CH, and D).
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