Seeking Sovereignty in Europe and Iraq

Two very different efforts at "nation building" are galvanizing world attention: America's struggle to construct a viable polity in Iraq and the EU's ambitious project of making Europe into a true "Union." While many issues involved are distinct, a "democratic deficit" looms large in both undertakings. Why and what will it take to overcome it?

Sovereign regimes require a political identity. To understand this, lets reflect on a few considerations with a Rousseauian flavour. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the conflicted genius who first articulated many basic themes of modernity, from democracy through authenticity, with all their contradictory demands. He is a great thinker, whose advice is always disastrous to follow.

The first modern, democratic revolutions transferred power from monarchs to the "nation" or the "people." But this required inventing a new kind of collective agency that could decide and act together, to which one could attribute - a la Rousseau -- a "will." This new entity requires strong cohesion, because popular sovereignty means more than simply the will of the majority.

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