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The reconstitution of European public spheres

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The strength of participation in its political processes has increasingly become the yardstick against which the legitimacy of the European Union is measured. Yet experiments in deliberative and participatory democracy suggest that their practice invariably falls short of their lofty ideals. A reason is their failure to consider the process of communication itself. As understanding of communication is constituted through a number of surrounding communicative contexts, communication, per se, can never be said to be good or bad. More important is a constitutional framework for communication which provides the contexts—performative, institutional and epistemic—that enable communication to contribute to particular, desirable ideals. This piece will argue that a deliberative approach to European governance involves a process of justification in which the three practical tasks of the European Union—polity-building, problem-solving and the negotiation of political community—are debated and resolved around the four values that have underpinned the development of politics as a productive process—those of transformation, validity, relationality and self-government. The organisational reform required for this involves a wide-ranging revisiting of the structures of the European polity.

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