chapter  9
Governance in the European Union: a viable mechanism for future legitimation?: Philippe C. Schmitter
Pages 18

The chapters in this volume dealing with the EU seem to agree that something called ‘governance’ is a more accurate descriptor of how the European Union (EU) operates than the term ‘government’. The latter evokes a political order similar to that of its component national states with a defined territory and population and an institution, whose monopoly over the legitimate application of violence allows it to control behaviour through a distinctive and hierarchic system of public offices and commands. Even federal systems with their more dispersed distribution of competences across multiple levels of aggregation still have a central government that exercises ultimate authority over subordinate states, provinces, cantons, or Länder. The former, governance, has a distinct advantage as a label since it is novel in usage, vague in meaning, and less threatening than government. Moreover, these qualities seem to fit the peculiarly diffuse, obscure, and multi-layered way that the EU goes about its business. Decisions binding for all are made in Brussels, but their impact upon individual citizens and social groups is almost always mediated by and implemented through national and sub-national authorities. This remoteness and absence of direct connection, no doubt, contributes to the (correct) perception that ‘European governance’ is something different from national government.