Brandsma, Gijs Jan

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The Principal–Agent Model, Accountability and Democratic Legitimacy

2017-10-18, Brandsma, Gijs Jan, Adriaensen, Johan

This chapter explores the normative underpinnings of the principal–agent model. These are situated in Rousseau’s analysis of the representative democracy and Weber’s study of the bureaucracy. Whereas many of their arguments still maintain their value in present-day politics, the empirical reality in which these ideas developed has changed drastically. The rise of alternative forms of public contestation, and above all, the multi-level decision-making setting of the EU, begs the question for which contemporary debates the principal–agent model still holds moral sway. We argue that—while principal–agent analyses can benefit from an explicit normative debate—the model is too reductionist to provide conclusive answers to such debates.