Notes toward a theory of multilevel governing in Europe

with the introduction of Bob Jessop

  • Fritz W. Scharpf Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies
Keywords: multilevel governance, mutual adjustment, intergovernmental negotiations, joint-decision making, hierarchical direction, European Union


The complexity of the multi-level European polity is not adequately represented by the single-level theoretical concepts of competing “intergovernmentalist” and “supranationalist” approaches. By contrast, empirical research focusing on multilevel interactions tends either to emphasize the uniqueness of its objects, or to create novel concepts – which are likely to remain contested even among Euro- peanists and have the effect of isolating European studies from the political science mainstream in International Relations and Comparative Politics. These difficulties are bound to continue as long as researchers keep proposing holistic concepts that claim to represent the complex reality of the European polity as a whole. It is suggested that the present competition among poorly fitting and contested generalizations could be overcome if European studies made use of a plurality of simpler and complementary concepts, each of which is meant to rep- resent the specific characteristics of certain subsets of multi-level interactions – which could also be applied and tested in other fields of political-science re- search. The paper goes on to describe four distinct modes of multi-level interaction in the European polity – “mutual adjustment”, “intergovernmental negotiations”, “ joint-decision making”, and “hierarchical direction” – and to discuss their characteristics by reference to the criteria of problem-solving capacity and institutional legitimacy.


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How to Cite
Scharpf, F. W. (2014). Notes toward a theory of multilevel governing in Europe. Public Governance / Zarządzanie Publiczne, (30(4), 76-99. Retrieved from
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