Bulletin n. 1/2017
June 2017
  • Section A) The theory and practise of the federal states and multi-level systems of government
  • Section B) Global governance and international organizations
  • Section C) Regional integration processes
  • Section D) Federalism as a political idea
  • Maria Cahill
    Theorizing subsidiarity: Towards an ontology-sensitive approach
    in International Journal of Constitutional Law , volume 15, issue 1 ,  2017 ,  201-224
    In the context of definitional confusion, it might seem recklessly counterproductive to suggest that what we agree on in relation to subsidiarity is perhaps more problematic than what we disagree on. Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is to challenge the uncontroversial starting-point of much subsidiarity analysis: that subsidiarity allocates functions between “higher” and “lower” levels. Recent scholarship on subsidiarity in political philosophy expresses a frank concern about a decontextualized and dogmatic use of those terms and reminds us that subsidiarity is premised on a preexisting social ontology. In order to recognize subsidiarity’s ontological commitments, this paper proposes an ontology-sensitive approach to subsidiarity, and the use of the terms primary units (in place of “lower levels”) and subsidiary units (in place of “higher levels”). Through the fictional example of the Good Fight Club, the practical implications of an ontology-sensitive theory of subsidiarity are discussed, revealing four precepts which direct the interaction between primary and subsidiary units. These four precepts are then used as benchmarks against which to appraise the European principle of subsidiarity.
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