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Political Research Exchange

The Rise of the Pseudocrat

Democracy
 
European Union
 
Executives
 
Knowledge
 
Competence
 
Decision Making
 
Eurozone
 
Presenter
John Erik Fossum
Universitetet i Oslo
Authors
AGUSTÍN JOSÉ Menéndez
Universitetet i Oslo
John Erik Fossum
Universitetet i Oslo

Abstract
The manifold crises that have hit Europe since 2008 have revealed the limits and in-built pathologies of the path followed by European integration since the early 1980s. The asymmetry between economic and political integration have trapped Europe into a permanent oscillation between inaction, manifestly inadequate action and emergency government, a pattern that can be discerned in the government of the financial, fiscal and refugee crises. The way out of this impasse has been said to be either in more Europe or in more intergovernmentalism. Both trends seem to be partially vindicated, as it is both the case that power has been centralised (with competences shifted to the supranational level of government on what concerns matters ranging from macro and micro-prudential supervision of the financial system to surveillance and monitoring of national fiscal and macroeconomic policies and including the establishment of the embryo of a supranational police force) while the European Council (or its Eurozone equivalent, the Eurozone Summit) has emerged as the organ in charge of key decision-making, apparently vindicating those that point to an emerging new form of intergovernmentalism.
In this paper, we take as our point of departure that neither position captures well enough the EU’s crisis-driven constitutional mutation. Intrinsic to that is what we will term the rise of the pseudocrat. The pseudocrat as a distinct role embedded in a distinct institutional structure epitomises a transformation in the manner in which politics and administration are mixed and conducted in contemporary Europe. In the first section we distinguish the pseudocrat from the politician and the expert. In the second section we focus on those bodies that are particularly prone to pseudo-technocratic governance, notably the ECB but with possible spill-over also to national central banks. The third section queries why this has come about and argues that it is a manifestation of how the European integration process pre-crises got increasingly stuck in a competency trap which the financial and other crises may be turning into an incompetency trap. The final part holds the conclusions and considers the shape of the future research agenda.
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