A few scholars regard the European Union and its specific forms of governance as an experimental ground for the development of democratic structures and processes beyond the nation-state. Over the past years, the debate has been strongly affected by representatives of a theory of deliberative democracy who – often following the conceptual reflections of Jürgen Habermas – emphasize the communicative potential of reason inherent to European networks of deliberation and decision-making. The present article addresses the question of whether or rather to what extent the theory of deliberative democracy conceives and interprets the non-democratic character of the forms of European network governance in an appropriate way. The article argues that this is only partly the case. On the one hand, the developed theoretical perspective is instructive to focus on the procedural political-institutional embeddedness of deliberative policy-making; on the other hand, the theory of deliberative democracy is analytically too weak in order to identify the political economic and political sociological causes of the non-democratic quality of European network governance.
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