Political differentiation and the spectre of dominance

Which forms of differentiation are problematic? Which are not? EU3D’s main aim is to develop a theory of political differentiation that specifies the conditions under which differentiation is politically acceptable, institutionally sustainable and democratically legitimate, and the conditions under which it is not, i.e. when conditions of dominance prevail.

Over the last decade, the EU has dealt with a number of crises, such as the financial and refugee crisis, Euroscepticism and Russian aggression, Brexit, and most recently Covid-19. Some of the political changes associated with these crises coupled with aspects of the EU’s structural and institutional design have proven democratically deleterious. Further, since many of the changes are associated with an increase in differentiation, these developments raise a number of questions about the relationship between differentiation, dominance and democracy:

In response to this, EU3D develops a conceptual framework that defines dominance and establishes the basic categories for the study of political differentiation; a set of standards and indicators to identify different notions of dominance in practice, and the core democratic criteria to clarify the conditions under which there is absence of dominance; and hypotheses and explanatory mechanisms for differentiation-driven dominance as well as for explaining democratic reform.

These undertakings are meant to enable EU3D to develop a theory of political differentiation that will serve as a sorting mechanism for separating democratic forms of differentiation from differentiation-driven forms of dominance. Such a sorting process is necessary for clarifying the potentials and pitfalls of differentiation.

Research coordinators

John Erik Fossum

Professor of Political Science



Erik O. Eriksen

Professor of Political Science



Published June 3, 2021 11:06 AM - Last modified Sep. 1, 2021 10:13 AM