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Withdrawal from International Institutions as Political Decay? Exit, Regression, and Legitimacy

Dr. Markus Patberg (University of Hamburg)
Thursday, May 4, 2023, 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

This seminar is planned as a hybrid event. Registration is required for non-CEU members.  

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ABSTRACTInternational cooperation is facing increasing contestation, often geared towards exit. Political actors – from civil society movements to political parties to governments – call upon member states to leave international institutions. This empirical development is flanked by a growing academic literature that recommends member states take the “way out downwards” (Streeck), i.e., exit, in response to perceived democratic deficits of global governance. At the same time, treaty withdrawals are often portrayed as a sign of political decay – as a threat to normative achievements. And indeed, exit can create significant costs – for example, deprive individuals of certain rights, or do away with legitimate decision procedures. This raises the question of whether and under what conditions exit amounts to regression and what follows from this for its legitimacy. In this paper, I argue that political theory needs to develop a new methodology to approach this issue. Bringing together the literature on rational reconstruction and political realism, I develop an approach of ‘realist reconstructivism’ meant to allow distinguishing between regressive and non-regressive forms of exit politics.


BIO| Markus Patberg is a Research Associate in Political Theory at the University of Hamburg, where he obtained his PhD in 2016. Prior to joining the University of Hamburg, he was a Research Associate at TU Darmstadt. He has held visiting positions at University College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Patberg’s research interests include democratic theory, constituent power, the work of Jürgen Habermas, political theory of the EU, digitalization, and disintegration. He is the author of Constituent Power in the European Union (Oxford University Press, 2020).


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Meeting ID: 942 5206 2740

Passcode: 451148