Axial Shift pp 199-238 | Cite as

The Principle of Subsidiarity

  • Benjamen GussenEmail author


After elaborating on the problem of scale in Chaps.  4,  5, and  6, this chapter looks at the principle of subsidiary, which is sometimes also referred to as spheres of sovereignty or hypotaxis. The principle provides a solution to the problem of scale by ensuring that decision-making is grounded as the local scale when possible. One particular strand of subsidiarity gives the city a prominent position as the seat of the local scale (as opposed to the individual). This chapter fleshes out the arguments for subsidiary and the role of the city in this organizational structure.


  1. Agassi, Joseph, ‘Methodological Individualism’ (1960) 11(3) The British Journal of Sociology 244.Google Scholar
  2. Agnew, J and S Corbridge, Mastering Space: Hegemony, Territory, and International Political Economy (Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  3. Aligica, Paul and Vlad Tarko, ‘Polycentricity: From Polanyi to Ostrom, and Beyond’ (2012) 25(2) Governance 237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alexander, Jeffrey, The Micro-Macro Link (University of California Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  5. Allen, J and A Cochrane, ‘Beyond the Territorial Fix: Regional Assemblages, Politics and Power’ (2007) 41(9) Regional Studies 1161.Google Scholar
  6. Altman, David, Direct Democracy Worldwide (Cambridge University Press, 2011).Google Scholar
  7. de Anguita, Pablo Martinez, Maria Ángeles Martín, and Abbie Clare, ‘Environmental Subsidiarity as a Guiding Principle for Forestry Governance: Application to Payment for Ecosystem Services and Redd+ Architecture’ (2013) 27(4) Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 617.Google Scholar
  8. Aristotle, The Politics (Harvard University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  9. Arrighi, Giovanni, ‘Globalization, State Sovereignty, and the “Endless” Accumulation of Capital’ in David A Smith, Dorothy J Solinger and Steven C Topik (eds), States and Sovereignty in the Global Economy (Routledge, 1999) 53.Google Scholar
  10. Backhaus, Jürgen G, ‘Subsidiarity’ in Jürgen G Backhaus (ed), The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics (Edward Elgar, 1999) 136.Google Scholar
  11. Barry, Brian, ‘The Consociational Model and its Dangers’ (1975) 3 (4) European Journal of Political Research 393.Google Scholar
  12. Beck, A, ‘Is Law an Autopoietic System?’ (1994) 14(3) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blank, Yishai, ‘Federalism, Subsidiarity, and the Role of Local Governments in an Age of Global Multilevel Governance’ (2010) 37(2) Fordham Urban Law Journal 509.Google Scholar
  14. Bonabeau, Eric, Marco Dorigo and Guy Theraulaz, Swarm Intelligence: From Natural to Artificial Systems (Oxford University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  15. Breton, Albert, Alberto Cassone and Angela Fraschini, ‘Decentralization and Subsidiary: Toward a Theoretical Reconciliation’ (1998) 19 University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law 21.Google Scholar
  16. Brennan, Patrick McKinley, ‘Subsidiarity in the Tradition of Catholic Social Doctrine’ in M Evans and A Zimmerman (eds), Global Perspectives on Subsidiarity (Springer, 2014) 29.Google Scholar
  17. Brown, Christine, ‘The Fiduciary Duty of Government: An Alternative Accountability Mechanism or Wishful Thinking?’ (1993) 2 Griffith Law Review 161.Google Scholar
  18. Buchanan, James and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor 1962).Google Scholar
  19. Byrne, David and Gill Callaghan, Complexity Theory and the Social Sciences: The State of the Art (Routledge, 2014).Google Scholar
  20. Camilleri, Joseph A, ‘Rethinking Sovereignty in a Shrinking Fragmented World’ in R B J Walker and Saul H Mendlovitz (eds), Contending sovereignties: Redefining Political Community (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990).Google Scholar
  21. Carozza, P G, ‘Subsidiarity as a Structural Principle of International Human Rights Law’ (2003) 97(38) The American Journal of International Law 38.Google Scholar
  22. Chaplin, Jonathan, ‘Subsidiarity and Sphere Sovereignty: Catholic and Reformed Conceptions of the Role of the State’ in FP McHugh and SM Natale (eds), Things Old and New: Catholic Social Teaching Revisited (University Press of America, 1993) 175.Google Scholar
  23. Chernilo, Daniel, A Social Theory of The Nation-State (Routledge, 2007).Google Scholar
  24. Clark, Kathleen, ‘Do We Have Enough Ethics in Government Yet? An Answer form Fiduciary Theory’ (1996) University of Illinois Law Review 57.Google Scholar
  25. Coffey, John R D, ‘The language of liberty in Calvinist political thought’ in M van Gelderen and Q Skinner (eds), Freedom and the Construction of Europe (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013) vol 1, 296.Google Scholar
  26. Colombo, Alessandro (ed), Subsidiarity Governance: Theoretical and Empirical Models (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).Google Scholar
  27. Cronin, Thomas E, Direct Democracy: The Politics of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall (Harvard University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  28. D’Amato, Anthony, ‘International Law as an Autopoietic System’ in R Wolfrum and V Röben (eds), Developments of International Law in Treaty Making (Springer, 2005).Google Scholar
  29. D’onorio, Joël-Benoît, ‘La Subsidiarité: Analyse d’un Concept’ in Joël-Benoît D’onorio et al La Subsidiarité: De la théorie à la pratique (TÉQUI, 1995) 10.Google Scholar
  30. Dölken, Clemens, ‘Subsidiarität und Institutionenökonomik’ (2013) 54 Jahrbuch für Christliche Sozialwissenschaften 193.Google Scholar
  31. Eble, Gunther, ‘The Complexity of Evolution’ (2001) 6(6) Complexity 24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Elster, Jon, ‘Marxism, Functionalism, and Game Theory: The Case for Methodological Individualism’ (1982) 11(4) Theory and Society 453.Google Scholar
  33. Ermercke, Gustav, ‘Subsidiarität Und Auxiliarität in Staat Und Kirche’ (1976) 17 Jahrbuch für Christliche Sozialwissenschaften 81.Google Scholar
  34. Evans, Michelle, The Use of the Principle of Subsidiarity in the Reformation of Australia’s Federal System of Government (Curtin University, 2012).Google Scholar
  35. Evans, Michelle and Augusto Zimmermann (eds), Global Perspectives on Subsidiarity (Springer, 2014).Google Scholar
  36. Finn, P D, ‘The Fiduciary Principle’ in TG Youdan (ed), Equity, Fiduciaries and Trusts (Carswell, 1989) 1.Google Scholar
  37. Floriani, Peter J, Subsidiarity (Penn Street Productions, 2012).Google Scholar
  38. Foucault, Michel, Power (New Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  39. Føllesdal, Andreas, ‘Survey Article: Subsidiarity’ (1998) 6(2) Journal of Political Philosophy 190.Google Scholar
  40. ———, ‘The Principle of Subsidiarity as a Constitutional Principle in International Law’ (2013) 2(1) Global Constitutionalism 37.Google Scholar
  41. ———, ‘Competing Conceptions of Subsidiarity’ in James E Flemming and Jacob T Levy (eds), Federalism and Subsidiarity (New York University Press, 2014a) 214.Google Scholar
  42. ———, ‘Subsidiarity and the Global Order’ in Michelle Evans and Augusto Zimmermann (eds), Global Perspectives on Subsidiarity (Springer, 2014b) 207.Google Scholar
  43. Garran, Robert Randolph, The Coming Commonwealth (Angus and Robertson, 1897).Google Scholar
  44. Glensy, Rex D, ‘The Right to Dignity’ (2011) 43 Columbia Human Rights Law Review 65.Google Scholar
  45. Goldstein, Leon J, ‘The Two Theses of Methodological Individualism’ (1958) 9(33) The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 1.Google Scholar
  46. Gopalakrishnan, P S, Glocalization: thinking global, acting local (Icfai University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  47. Gosepath, Stefan, ‘The Principle of Subsidiarity’ in Andreas Føllesdal and Thomas Pogge (eds) Real World Justice: Grounds, Principles, Human Rights, and Social Institutions (Springer, Dordrecht, the Netherlands, 2005) 157.Google Scholar
  48. Grewal, Bhajan, ‘Economic Perspectives on Federalism’ in A Federalism for the 21st Century (Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), 2014) 41.Google Scholar
  49. Guéhenno, Jean-Marie, The End of the Nation-State (University of Minnesota Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  50. Gussen, B F, ‘On the Problem of Scale: Hayek, Kohr, Jacobs and the Reinvention of the Political State’ (2013a) 24(1) Constitutional Political Economy 19.Google Scholar
  51. ———, ‘On the problem of scale: spinozistic sovereignty as the logical foundation of the constitutional economics’ (2013b) 7(1) Journal of Philosophical Economics (online).Google Scholar
  52. ———, ‘Subsidiarity as a constitutional principle in New Zealand’ (2014a) 12(1) New Zealand Journal of Public and International Law 123.Google Scholar
  53. ———, ‘The Evolutionary Economic Implications of Constitutional Designs: Lessons from the Constitutional Morphogenesis of New England and New Zealand’ (2014b) 6(2) Perspectives on Federalism E319.Google Scholar
  54. ———, ‘The State is the Fiduciary of the People’ (2015a) 3 Public Law 440.Google Scholar
  55. ———, Is Subsidiarity a Conditio Sine Qua Non for Sustainability?, (2015b) 36(4) Policy Studies 384.Google Scholar
  56. ———, Ranking Economic Performance and Efficiency in the Global Market: Emerging Research and Opportunities (IGI Global, 2018).Google Scholar
  57. Hamilton, W D, ‘Selfish and Spiteful Behaviour in an Evolutionary Model’ (19 December 1970) 228 Nature 1218.Google Scholar
  58. Hayek, F A, Individualism and Economic Order (University of Chicago Press, 1948).Google Scholar
  59. ———, New Studies in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978).Google Scholar
  60. ———, Law, Legislation and Liberty: A New Statement of the Liberal Principles of Justice and Political Economy volumes 1 to 3 (Routledge, 2013 [1973, 1976, 1979]).Google Scholar
  61. Helleiner, Eric, ‘Sovereignty, Territoriality and the Globalization of Finance’ in David A Smith, Dorothy J Solinger, and Steven C Topik (eds), States and Sovereignty in the Global Economy (Routledge, 1999) 138–157, 149.Google Scholar
  62. Herod, Andrew, Scale (Routledge, 2011).Google Scholar
  63. Herzog, R, ‘Subsidiaritatsprinzip’ in Historiches Wörterbuch der Philosophie 10 (Schwabe, Basel, 1998) 482.Google Scholar
  64. Heylighen, Francis, ‘Complexity and Self-Organization’ in Marcia J Bates and Mary Niles Maack (eds), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences (CRC Press, 2nd ed, 2008).Google Scholar
  65. Higginbotham, John (trans), Cicero on Moral Obligations (Faber & Faber, 1967).Google Scholar
  66. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (Pacific Publishing Studio, 2011).Google Scholar
  67. Hodgson, Geoffrey M, ‘Meaning of Methodological Individualism’ (2007) 14(2) Journal of Economic Methodology 211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Hopkins, John, Devolution in Context: Regional, Federal and Devolved Government in the European Union (Cavendish Publishing, 2002).Google Scholar
  69. Jackson, Robert, ‘Sovereignty in World Politics: A Glance at the Conceptual and Historical Landscape’ in Neil Walker (ed), Relocating Sovereignty (Ashgate Dartmouth, Aldershot 2006) 3. Published earlier in 1999 47(3) Political Studies 431.Google Scholar
  70. ———, Sovereignty: The Evolution of an Idea (Polity Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  71. Jayasuriya, Kanishka, ‘Globalization, Sovereignty, and the Rule of Law: From Political to Economic Constitutionalism?’ in Neil Walker (ed), Relocating Sovereignty (Ashgate, 2006) 361.Google Scholar
  72. Jordan, Andrew and Tim Jeppesen, ‘EU Environmental Policy: Adapting to the Principle of Subsidiarity?’ (2000) 10 European Environment 64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Kim, Rakhyun E and Brendan Mackey, ‘International Environmental Law as a Complex Adaptive System’ (2014) 14 International Environmental Agreements 5.Google Scholar
  74. Kirchner, Christian, ‘The Principle of Subsidiarity in the Treaty on European Union: A Critique from a Perspective of Constitutional Economics’ (1998) 6 Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law 291.Google Scholar
  75. Krasner, Stephen D, ‘Globalization and Sovereignty’ in David A Smith, Dorothy J Solinger and Steven C Topik (eds), States and Sovereignty in the Global Economy (Routledge, 1999) 34.Google Scholar
  76. Kurrild-Klitgaard, Peter, ‘Opting-Out: The Constitutional Economics of Exit’ (2002) 61(1) Journal of Economics and Sociology 123.Google Scholar
  77. Lee, Steven, ‘A Puzzle of Sovereignty’ in Neil Walker (ed), Relocating Sovereignty (Ashgate, 2006) 241.Google Scholar
  78. Leo XIII, ‘Rerum Novarum: Encyclical Letter on Capital and Labor’ (15 May 1891) in Claudia Carlen (ed) 2 The Papal Encyclicals 1878–1903 (Pierian Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  79. List, Christina and Kai Spiekermann, ‘Methodological Individualism and Holism in Political Science: A Reconciliation’ (2013) 107(4) American Political Science Review 629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Little, Daniel, ‘Actor-Cantered Sociology and the New Pragmatism’ in Julie Zahle and Finn Collin (eds), Rethinking the Individualism-Holism Debate (Springer, 2014) 55.Google Scholar
  81. Locke, John, Two Treaties of Government (Legal Classics Library, 1994).Google Scholar
  82. Loughlin, Martin, Legality and Locality (Clarendon Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  83. ———, ‘Ten Tenets of Sovereignty’ in Neil Walker (ed), Relocating Sovereignty (Ashgate, 2006) 79.Google Scholar
  84. Lowe, Vaughan, ‘The Role of Equity in International Law’ (1988) 12 Australian Yearbook of International Law 54.Google Scholar
  85. Lukes, Steven, ‘Methodological Individualism Reconsidered’ (1968) 19(2) The British Journal of Sociology 119.Google Scholar
  86. Luhmann, Niklas, Introduction to Systems Theory (Polity Press, 2013).Google Scholar
  87. Lyons, Neil, ‘Autopoiesis: Evolution, Assimilation, and Causation of Normative Closure’ in Tim Kaye (ed), Law, Justice, and Miscommunications: Essays in Applied Legal Philosophy (Vanderplas Publishing, 2011).Google Scholar
  88. MacCormick, Neil, ‘Liberalism, Nationalism and the Post-sovereign State’ (1996) 44 Political Studies 553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. ———, ‘Democracy, Subsidiarity, and Citizenship in the “European Commonwealth”’ (1997) 16(4) Law and Philosophy 331.Google Scholar
  90. Macdonald, Scot and Gunnar Nielsson, ‘Linkages Between the Concepts of “Subsidiarity” and Sovereignty: The New Debate over Allocation of Authority in the European Union’ (Paper presented at the Fourth European Union Studies Association (EUSA) Biennial Conference, 1995).Google Scholar
  91. Marshall, Graham, ‘Nesting, Subsidiarity, and Community-Based Environmental Governance beyond the Local Level’ (2008) 2 (1) International Journal of the Commons 75.Google Scholar
  92. Martin, Aaron, ‘The Principle of Subsidiarity and Institutional Predispositions’ (July 2010) CAP Research Group on European Affairs.
  93. Mason, Anthony, ‘The Place of Equity and Equitable Remedies in the Contemporary Law World’ (1994) 110 Law Quarterly Review 238.Google Scholar
  94. Melé, Domènec, ‘Exploring the Principle of Subsidiarity in Organisational Forms’ (2005) 60 Journal of Business Ethics 293.Google Scholar
  95. Menger, Carl, Problems of Economics and Sociology (University of Illinois Press, 1963).Google Scholar
  96. Merriam, C E, ‘History of the Theory of Sovereignty Since Rousseau’ in The Faculty of Political Science of Columbia University (ed), Studies in History Economics and Public Law (Columbia University Press, 1900).Google Scholar
  97. Michailakis, Dimitris, ‘Law as an Autopoietic System’ (1995) 38(4) Acta Sociologica 323.Google Scholar
  98. Millon-Delsol, Chantal, L’État Subsidiaire: Ingérence et Non-ingérence de l’État, Le Principe de Subsidiarité aux Fondements de l’Histoire Européenne (Presses Universitaires de France, 1992).Google Scholar
  99. von Mises, Ludwig, Human Action (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1998).Google Scholar
  100. Mitchell, Timothy, ‘Fixing the Economy’ (1998) 12(1) Cultural Studies 82.Google Scholar
  101. Morgan, Lloyd C, Emergent Evolution (Williams and Norgate, 1923).Google Scholar
  102. Mulgan, R G, ‘Aristotle’s Sovereign’ (1970) 18(4) Political Studies 518.Google Scholar
  103. Noga, Marian, ‘Methodological Individualism versus Holism in Institutional Economics’ (2011) 3(15) Economics (Ekonomia) 38.Google Scholar
  104. Ohmae, Kenichi, The End of the Nation State: The Rise of the Regional Economics (HarperCollins, 1995).Google Scholar
  105. Orr, Graeme, ‘The conduct of Referenda and Plebiscites in Australia: A Legal Perspective’ (2000) 11 Public Law Review 117.Google Scholar
  106. Prigogine, Nicolis, Self-organization in Nonequilibrium Systems (Wiley, 1977).Google Scholar
  107. Pius XI, ‘Quadragesimo Anno: Encyclical Letter on Reconstruction of Social Order’ (15 May 1931) in Claudia Carlen (ed), 3 The Papal Encyclicals 1903–1939 (Pierian Press, 1990).Google Scholar
  108. Portuese, Aurelian, ‘The Principle of Subsidiarity as a Principle of Economic Efficiency’ 17 Columbia Journal of European Law 231 (2010).Google Scholar
  109. Popper, Karl, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol 1: Plato, vol 2: Hegel and Marx (Routledge & Kegan Paul, [1945] 1966).Google Scholar
  110. Qvortrup, Matt, ‘Introduction: Theory, Practice and History’ in Matt Qvortrup (ed), Referendums Around the World: The Continued Growth of Direct Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) 1.Google Scholar
  111. Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés, ‘The Rise of the ‘City-Region’ Concept and Its Development Policy Implications’ (2008) 16(8) European Planning Studies 1025.Google Scholar
  112. Rossiter, Clinton (ed), The Federalist Papers (Penguin, 1961).Google Scholar
  113. Rutherford, M, Institutions in Economics: The Old and New Institutionalism (Cambridge university Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  114. Schumpeter, Joseph, Das Wesen und der Hauptinhalt der theoretischen Nationalökonomie (Leipzig, Duncker & Humblot, 1908).Google Scholar
  115. ———, ‘On the Concept of Social Value’ (1909) 23(2) The Quarterly Journal of Economics 213.Google Scholar
  116. Sealy, L S, ‘Fiduciary Relationships’ (1962) Cambridge Law Journal 69.Google Scholar
  117. Singer, Brian C J and Lorna Weir, ‘Politics and Sovereign Power: Considerations on Foucault’ (2006) 9 European Journal of Social Theory 443.Google Scholar
  118. Salter, Alexander William, ‘Sovereignty as Exchange of Political Property Rights’ (2015) 165(1) Public Choice 79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  119. Smith, David A, Dorothy J Solinger and Steven C Topik (eds), States and Sovereignty in the Global Economy (Routledge, 1999).Google Scholar
  120. Teubner, Gunther, Law as an Autopoietic System (Blackwell Publishers, 1993).Google Scholar
  121. Tierney, Stephen, ‘Reframing Sovereignty? Sub-State National Societies and Contemporary Challenges to the Nation-State’ in Neil Walker (ed), Relocating Sovereignty (Ashgate, 2006) 245.Google Scholar
  122. ———, Constitutional Referendums: Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation (Oxford University Press, 2012).Google Scholar
  123. Udehn, Lars, Methodological Individualism: Background, History and Meaning (Routledge, 2001).Google Scholar
  124. ———, ‘The Changing Face of Methodological Individualism’ (2002) 28 Annual Review of Sociology 479.Google Scholar
  125. Van Til, Kent, ‘Subsidiarity and Sphere-Sovereignty: A Match Made in …? ‘ (2008) 69(3) Theological Studies 610.Google Scholar
  126. Wall, Derek, The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft (Routledge, 2014).Google Scholar
  127. Wanna, John, et al, Common Cause, Strengthening Australia’s Cooperative Federalism: Final Report to the Council for the Australian Federation (Council for the Australian Federation, 2009).Google Scholar
  128. Waters, Donovan (ed), Equity, Fiduciaries and Trusts (Carswell, 1993).Google Scholar
  129. Watkins, J W N, ‘The Principle of Methodological Individualism’ (1952) 3(10) The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 186.Google Scholar
  130. Weber, Max, Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (University of California Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  131. Witte, John, Jr, ‘Natural Rights, Popular Sovereignty, and Covenant Politics: Johannes Althusius and the Dutch Revolt and Republic’ (2010) 87 University of Detroit Mercy Law Review 565.Google Scholar
  132. Zalta, Edward N (ed), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Stanford University Press, 2011).Google Scholar
  133. Zimmermann, Augusto, ‘Subsidiarity and a Free Society’ (2014) 30(4) Policy 30.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawSwinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations