Involving civil society – in particular affected stakeholders – is often seen as a solution to democratic deficits. High expectations ride on the promise of participation in new modes of governance at the EU, such as the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). But its results have been modest, and it is unclear who should participate where, and how.
Corinna Wolff offers a consistent framework to assess participation from the perspective of democratic legitimacy, conceptualising it as functional representation. She reviews recent theories of representation, develops them into a tool to deal with complex governance settings, then applies this framework to functional representation at the European Commission in EU social policy.
The results indicate that far from being a panacea, functional representation raises fundamental questions about the possibilities for democratic European governance.
'Much analysis of new modes of governance and of OMC mixes vague normative expectations with weak empirical analysis. But Corinna Wolff’s book is quite distinctive in its research method, theoretical reflections, in-depth analysis and scholarly caution. It makes a major contribution, not just to studies of policy-making innovation in the European Union, or to the complexities of political representation in the EU’s multilevel polity, but to our understanding of a critical dimension of European integration today ‒ the legitimacy of its rapidly evolving system of governance.'
Professor Martin Rhodes, University of Denver
'This book starts from the assumption that the ideas of those who organise participation determine, to an important extent, what may be expected in terms of democratic legitimacy. Accordingly, the author provides a material-rich analysis of what concept of participation and democratic legitimacy governs EU social policy and how it has shaped the modes of involving the affected. She arrives at a sobering conclusion: There is nothing democratic about functional representation per se ‒ and particularly not in the EU.'
Professor Beate Kohler-Koch, University of Mannheim
'Corinna Wolff’s book fills an important gap in the literature of normative theories of democracy which have somehow overlooked the growing saliency of functional representation in multi-level composite political systems like the EU. This book is essential reading for scholars interested in representation and participation in new modes of governance, as much as for those who want a better understanding of how contemporary democratic systems work.'
Professor Susana Borrás, Copenhagen Business School