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Democracy, Solidarity and Governance in Europe

The DSG stream investigates the inextricable link between Democracy, Solidarity and Governance within the European Union context both at the macro and the micro level.
Our researchers in this area work on a range of topics such as the changes and challenges brought about by the EU response to the Covid-19 crisis; the new programs of the EU; European Union Citizenship, the Governance of the EU, Labor Relations of the EU.

Our research embraces a multidisciplinary approach. Indeed, it draws from a) political philosophy tradition that deals with the identification of political subjecthood from the history of opposition, guilt, responsibility and common heritage sharing that shapes European society; b) political science studies on how economic and social conditions affect support of certain political agendas; c) management studies on governance of complex organizations; d) economic analysis on the competitiveness of European industry; e) legal research on institutional frames and on the protection of fundamental rights.


Maurizio Del Conte, Bocconi University

Anna Grandori, Bocconi University

The general theme of Democracy & Governance in Europe will be studied at the ‘micro’ level of one of the most important institutions regulating associated social and economic life: the firm. Particular attention will be given to one of the great social challenges of the years to come, employment and labor. New models of inclusive governance at the firm level can greatly contribute to, and even be necessary for, the success of interventions at the national or European policy level.


The study of democracy and governance at the firm level should strengthen the repertory of constitutional democratic governance mechanisms applicable by European institutions (both by firms directly and via European policies and legislation). In addition, it can generate conceptual advances by strengthening the currently rather weak connection between Law and Management&Organization. In particular, the project aims at:


  1. valorizing the specific contribution that the Civil Law approach and framework (at the level of European single Member States) can give, thanks to the rich provisions at various juridical levels (constitutional law, corporate law and labor law) on the public functions of enterprise and the forms of participation of constituencies and rightsholders.
  2. developing joint juridical and organizational analyses of the variety of employment contracts and the notion of ‘dependent work’; as well as analyses of the voice rights of different types of participants,
  3. investigate the relations between the legal discipline of employment relations, the legal forms of enterprise and the organization and governance arrangements at the firm level and the inter-firm network level.
  4. develop comparative analyses of trade union-based democracy and institutional representative democracy at company level on various decision matters
  5.  develop implications for the (much called for but still dormant) reforms and redesign of the structures and procedures of representation and participation in firm governance.

Giunia Gatta, Bocconi University

Graziella Romeo, Bocconi University

The proposed research aims at exploring the conceptualization of political subjecthood in the context of the current status of the European integration process. Therefore, the research is concerned with how the European political subject is conceptualized and eventually legally framed within the EU.


The notion of ‘political subject’ is to be distinguished from the related concept of European citizenship. By looking at the political subject we intend to focus on relationships of membership, participation and engagement in the European public sphere as conceptualized within the European political culture, at a particular time and taking into account the history of opposition, guilt, responsibility and also common heritage sharing that shapes European society.


The establishment of supranational levels of government, in Europe and globally, forced scholars to find a conceptual frame for the exercise of public powers beyond state borders, which usually happened via centralized decision-making processes only marginally involving national democratic circuits.


Thus, the literature on democratic legitimacy has grown mainly with the goal of deepening the understanding of democracy in the context of multi-layered and complex decision-making processes within which democratic participation is one step in articulated procedures of political action.


The literature on these topics is vast both in philosophical and in legal studies. Among the main contributions are the conceptualization of cosmopolitan citizenship; the critique of state sovereignty; and challenging the idea of input democracy. All these studies point at justifying the emergence of a paradigm for the exercise of political power that is alternative to the classical idea of State as a unity of territory, sovereignty and nationality. For example, by drawing from Dahl and Beits’ works, some scholars identified two frames of input and output legitimacy, by conflating normative and social legitimacy of a given political regime. Input legitimacy refers to the bottom-up process through which the people make political choices concerning how they want to be governed. On the contrary, under an output-oriented model, legitimacy concerns are addressed by focusing on the effective promotion of the constituency’s common welfare through a number of political actions designed to solve problems of a collective nature. Other scholars proposed a typology of democratic legitimacy by distinguishing between a) input or process legitimacy; b) output or results legitimacy and c) legitimacy based on telos, which means that legitimacy is gained by promising a desirable result.


While this literature helps justify political institutions alternative to the state archetype and provides counterarguments to populist rhetoric’s emphasis on inputs, it fails to explain how the political subjecthood of the European citizen can be built or conceptualized.
We propose to shift the focus from legitimacy and democracy concerns to the identification of the political subject, by exploring:


  1. the making of the political subject within the EU;
  2. the conceptual background of it.


By doing so, we intend to deepen the understanding of the possibility to defend the idea of a European political subject as well as to propose a conceptual framework that makes sense of the current status of political subjecthood within the EU.
Our research embraces a multidisciplinary approach, since it will draw on the political philosophy tradition as well as on the legal framework contributing to the making of political subjecthood (political participation, voting rights, access to political deliberation).

Maria Antonia Panascì, Bocconi University

The constitutional status of solidarity in the European Union is a topic of increasing interest for European studies. In particular, the social dimension of European integration, which includes free movement of persons and social rights, at micro level and the values of the EU as a socio-economic organization at macro level, has regained relevance in the context of recent EU transformations.


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has posed another existential challenge for the European Union (EU), which had already undergone a process of self-reflection after the financial crisis of the last decade. Unlike the Eurozone crisis, which was the result of a big asymmetric shock in the financial sector, the Covid-19 crisis is a real sector crisis affecting the world of labor and production, and thus the Union as a whole. In light of the symmetric and exogenous nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the EU’s response has been swift and unprecedented, comprising a number of remarkably new and ground-breaking measures. Among these, the EU’s recovery plan, Next Generation EU (NGEU), is undoubtedly the most ambitious and constitutionally remarkable.


Against this background, the aim of the research is to assess whether NGEU constitutes a paradigm shift in the EU’s trajectory of economic and fiscal integration. To this end, it relies on the conceptual framework and findings of Doc Panascì’s doctoral thesis, which explored the constitutional status of solidarity in the EU through an analysis of the changes brought by the Eurozone crisis to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Specifically, the proposed research will investigate to what extent NGEU adheres to the normative foundations of EMU and fits into its institutional framework. In particular, the research will explore:


  1. How does NGEU reconcile with the no-bailout clause in Article 125 TFEU?;
  2. What does the creative use of legal bases suggest for the EU constitutional configuration


Ultimately, it seeks to ascertain whether the EU’s response to COVID19, and most notably NGEU, entailed a constitutional change in the understanding of the EU value of solidarity. In light of the above, the research project analyzes NGEU from an economic, political, and legal perspective, questioning how the EU can work as a fiscal federation. The ultimate objective of the research is to assess the degree to which NGEU marks a constitutionally significant shift in the understanding of the EU value of solidarity.

Eleanor Spaventa, Bocconi University

While long considered an important actor in European integration, there are signs that the Court of Justice’s role in EU politics is increasingly contested. This contestation comes from both sides, with national Courts and scholars deriding ‘activist’ rulings in particular areas while simultaneously complaining of a failure to proactively defend European legal values in others. This project aims to revisit the debate over judicial politics in the EU by examining the causes and outcomes of increasing contestation of the EU judiciary. We therefore aim to examine both the factors that lead to contestation and the political, scholarly and substantive outcomes of contestation for the European constitutional order.


In doing so, the project aims to bring together a group of leading lawyers and political scientists within the Civica network to examine a key research priority within Civica, namely the constitutional resilience of the EU political order and the role of the judicial branch in safeguarding its basic principles. The core of the project will be a set of workshops and a collective publication bringing together experts from six Civica partners, junior researchers across the Civica network as well as external scholars and practitioners. By focusing on a common area of interest across the Civica network, and taking advantage of new research on judicialization in both law and political science, the project plans to lay the foundation for broader and more ambitious research collaboration within Civica on international Courts and the European constitutional order. 

Catherine E. De Vries,  Bocconi University

The key aim of the LOSS project is to unravel how economic hardship affects support for socially conservative political agendas aimed at restricting the rights of marginalized groups (ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, migrants, LGBTQIA + and women), and how local and national policy contexts affect this relationship. Many European societies have recently experienced growing prejudice towards marginalized groups and the rise in support for far-right parties advocating to restrict the rights of these groups. These developments threaten the cohesion of national and local communities across Europe. While aggregate level evidence suggests that financial crises generally coincide with increased support for far-right parties, we do not understand why this happens. By developing a groundbreaking interdisciplinary theoretical framework that integrates insights about the role of loss from political science, sociology, social psychology and behavioral economics, the LOSS project contends that experiences of economic hardship translate into specific narratives of loss that in turn trigger support for social conservative political agendas. To empirically examine the importance of narratives of loss, the LOSS project employs an innovative multi-method empirical approach combining qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. To explore the role of context, the project compares five European countries (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) that vary in the level of compensation provided for economic hardship, and local contexts within these countries.