Current pressures for a differentiated integration of the European Union (EU) can only be understood against the background of a longer-term historical movement that reflects the inherent tensions in liberal democracies between responsiveness and responsibility. The EU’s fundamentally technocratic nature of governance with regard to matters pertaining to its Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), we argue, must be understood as a reaction to the difficulties experienced by national democracies in the 1970s in containing increasingly disruptive societal and economic tensions. The eurocrisis, in turn, manifested the core vulnerability of technocratic governance, particularly as its mismanagement undermined the output legitimacy of the EU and prompted calls for increased responsiveness to national electorates and the concomitant renationalization of competences. We show that this political economic pendulum is deeply rooted in the inherent ambivalence of liberal democracy of Western societies.