Rethinking European Democracy after its Legitimacy Crisis: On Hannah Arendt and the European Union

Lars Rensmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Against the backdrop of the European Union’s contemporary legitimacy crisis, this article reconstructs Arendt’s still largely neglected writings on European post-national democracy. Arendt approached the ‘European question’ as a fundamental question for the future of democracy and civil rights in a globalized age, and a necessity for moving beyond the European nation-state model of political organization after the horrors of Nazi totalitarianism. Her work hereby shifts the focus from today’s much-lamented crisis of post-national democracy back to reflecting on the ‘chronic crisis’, contradictions and legacies of the European nation-state and of national sovereignty – a crisis that partly motivated the evolution of new European democratic beginnings in the first place. Moving beyond both national sovereignty and technocratic supra-national governance, Arendt’s critique lies the foundation for post-sovereign models of European politics and provides a rich resource for rethinking the conditions, justifications and legitimacy of European democracy today.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)217-238
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of European Studies
    Issue number49
    Early online date12-Aug-2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Nov-2019


    • Hannah Arendt
    • European democracy
    • legitimacy crisis
    • national sovereignty
    • post-nationalism

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