Recently, one term has come to occupy an ever more visible place in discussions at the various organizational, ad-ministrative, political and even theoretical levels within the European Union, namely, the "concept" of subsidiarity.1 From other standpoints to be discussed below, the concept is the object of theoretical reflections in other latitudes. Here the focus will be mainly upon the "extra-European" discussions regarding Latin America, the countries of Central and East Europe, Africa, etc. In accord with the preceding chapters, our aim is to think out the ways in which life is made possible in the real instances inside and outside civil society -- "outside" referring to the State or, better, to the relationships between the different spheres of civil society and the State.

            This chapter has six sections. First, because there is little knowledge of the concept itself of subsidiarity within the Spanish language (as well as in English outside the European framework, there will be a sketch of the most recent history of the concept as well as of its origin and the discussions through which it developed. This will introduce the problem itself of subsidiarity.

            The second section will establish succinctly in what the problem of subsidiarity consists, as well as its universal signi-ficance. The third section will identify and discuss some pre-suppositions of subsidiarity, without whose serious study un-derstanding the problem and its significance would be very difficult outside of the European framework and its internal discussions of a "Europe of nations" or a "Europe of peoples". This section will discuss the conditions of the universality of the concept of subsidiarity, and then consider its possible de-velopment and its practical meaning in the social, political and economic domains.

            Fourth, the concept and practice of subsidiarity will be situated in the specific context of the construction of civil so-ciety or, if one wishes, in the construction of a civil ethics. The use of the concept of "construction" should by no means be interpreted here or in the following as recourse to "con-structivistic" principles and methodologies in the Kamlah or Lorenzen sense. On the contrary, such expressions as the "construction of a civil society" or of a "civil ethics" refer to a common problem and task, namely: the construction of those necessary and sufficient stances that make possible life in community, that is, the construction of the conditions in which individual and social life build up a spiritual, cultural, political and historical world.

            The fifth step will be to situate the concrete analysis of subsidiarity in relation to its great "metaphysical" presu-pposition, namely, a philosophy of history. That is, on the basis of the conceptual problem of subsidiarity there is a de-termined philosophy of history which, though not thusfar made explicit, pervasively shapes the meaning of subsidiarity as a leading principle of social and political life. The analysis of that philosophy of history, also called a philosophy of cul-ture, is all the more important inasmuch as an elucidation of that presupposition unveils the whole set of time problems of everyday life in which meaning itself and the significance of history or historicity variously intersect.

            The final section will draw out the general conclusions from the previous analyses. Those conclusions, however, are not intended as conclusive; rather they point out a series of tasks and problems whose resolution and understanding is the task of all -- men, women, children and old people -- in the present generation and especially in those to follow.


            In studying the origins and context of subsidiarity it is possible to distinguish two extrinsically related steps. First, subsidiarity has a religious origin, or even a specifically Ca-tholic origin. Second, it has another origin within the ongoing discussions concerning the construction of the European Community or the European Union. The way in which these two origins are interrelated will be left aside in order to focus on briefly sketching both origins. The structure of this ex-position will not make a precise dividing line between the two, but proceed rather in a chronological sequence identifying the chief steps in which the history of subsidiarity has been ar-ticulated.

            Subsidiarity reflects originally a specifically Catholic preoccupation and a well determined historical reflection as both the outcome and the answer to the political climax that preceded World War II. In a narrow political and institutional sense it could be thought that the effort to think out and to make subsidiarity possible responds to three well defined challenges:2 the defense of the church’s authority in a political situation ever more hostile, the reconciliation of Catholicism with the goals of social progress and the state’s political po-licies, and the analysis of the lay Catholics’ commitment in an ever more secular or laicized political order. But the broader and real concern of the encyclicals was to save place for persons and their group exercise of responsible freedom in the face of the countervailing emergent polarization of various forms of totalitarian and liberal threats to social participation.

            The concept of subsidiarity in these circles appears first in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno from Pope Pius XI, and is found in all subsequent related encyclicals up to the present date.3 These original conditions have become much more ela-borate as can be seen from subsequent writings by both Ca-tholics and non-Catholics, believers and atheists, religious and lay people. The Synod of 1985 was called to study the applicability of the principle of subsidiarity inside the Ca-tholic Church herself.4

            Outside the directly or immediately Catholic spheres, the study of the concept of subsidiarity has been the subject mainly of jurists, administrators and politicians. In almost all cases the studies converge in pointing out the influence of the French school of institutional jurists and the German school of Catholic economists upon the introduction and acceptance of subsidiarity as a concept and principle by Pius XI. He charged the young German Jesuit, B.v. Nell-Breuning, to write the En-cyclical Quadragesirno Anno where the twin French and Ger-man influences converge. Subsidiarity is introduced as a prin-ciple for creating harmony among the different social groups which together constitute civil society. This balance of forces is to control the abuses of power by the main axes of the po-wer: political, military and economic. Thus the introduction of the concept of subsidiarity originally had a strong anti-state charge in the sense of a rejection or at least a critique of the concentration and abuse of power by relating the political state to the civil society.5

            In other words, subsidiarity arose as explicitly pointing out that no stance, decision, power and reality of the state is sovereign. Its point, however, is not to discern in which par-ticular stances and spheres of the state are autonomous and in which it is not; on the contrary, subsidiarity points out that the rights of the states and other social institutions have an origin external to their own reality and exercise of power. That ex-ternal origin directs us to the domain of civil society, to its dif-ferent component groups and, in a last but authentically founding instance, to the reality of the human person. Civil so-ciety is a matter not of individuals but of groups, or of persons as free and social rather than as atomic individuals each with autonomous rights. This is quite other than the libertarian or liberal idea of individuals as adversaries competing according to the blind hand of the market. A philosophical ground and source for this concept of subsidiarity might be found in E. Mounier’s personalism, where appeal to the principle of sub-sidiarity reflects the need to favor and stimulate human per-sons in their social relations.

            The history of subsidiarity throughout the documents of the Catholic Church is one of gradual enlargement and deep-ening. If at the beginning it was introduced in an explicitly political and/or social context, it has come to be applied to ever more domains. Thus for example, in 1961 John XXIII extended subsidiarity from the economic field to public au-thority, calling for the primacy of regional responsibility rather than leaving all to the central government. In 1963 the same Pope extended subsidiarity to the sphere of international affairs pleading for the idea, then still incipient, of a form of world government. Ultimately, subsidiarity would be applied also to the fields of education and culture.

            How was this extension of subsidiarity carried out? As almost all authors point out, until 1940 the concept itself was scarcely known by large Catholic minorities. Only after World War II, thanks specifically to the Christian Democrats, did subsidiarity reach domains of discussion beyond the Ca-tholic church. However, the main vector lending importance to the concept-problem of subsidiarity continues to be the same, namely: the acknowledgment of a distinctive legiti-macy and sovereignty on behalf of the various social group-ings vis-à-vis a hegemony and certain arrogance on the part of the state.

            As can be seen clearly, the underlying principles advo-cating the rights to development of certain so called "minor" or "more basic" civic organizations is a natural law con-ception. In the face of positive law which is the patrimony par excellence of the political state, its ever expanding apparatus and powers always need other forms of social and/or civic organization which come to be formed naturally or sponta-neously. Thus, the concepts and practice of solidarity and sub-sidiarity imply each other reciprocally and in ever-growing proportions.

            Solidarity has been proposed as the virtuous mean between extreme individualism and such extreme collectivisms as concretely by, Fascism (Italy), National Socialism (Ger-many) or Corporativism (Spain). But this does not warrant forgetting the other collectivisms in the form of the Dictator-ship of the Proletariat of Real Socialism or the all-powerful blind hand of the market. In its turn, then, according to Nell-Breuning, the function of subsidiarity is to safeguard the "au-tonomy and responsibility characteristic of the human indivi-dual vis-à-vis society. By the same token, it is about safe-guarding the autonomy and responsibility of the smaller circles of society vis-à-vis the largest and more encom-passing processes of socialization which thereby are set up in clearly ordered and layered levels".6

            Only in the 1980s did the concept of subsidiarity acquire a place of its own in the language of the European Com-munity.7 We can thus speak, but only methodologically, of a second origin of the concept of subsidiarity. In the context of the formation of the European Community or European Unity8 the concept of subsidiarity is set in the center and clarified as such, alongside the main concepts and problems from social and political philosophy. In this way, subsidiarity has become increasingly associated with the elucidation of the problems concerning common interests, democracy and federalization. Or, to put it the other way round, what is discussed in terms of subsidiarity generally are problems of decentralization of power and decision making, federalism and even the sub-sequent confederalism, and the concept of the common good.

            Inside the process of European construction, Jacques Delors has been one of the main sources and promoters of dis-cussion regarding subsidiarity. On the basis of Canadian, American and German experiences, each with their own cha-racteristics, subsidiarity supposes the distinction of two spheres: the private on the one hand, and the state on the other, and the distribution of tasks among those different levels of political power. From this point of view, according to Jacques Delors himself, subsidiarity encompasses two essential as-pects: on one level, the right and/or duty of everyone to exer-cise his or her responsibilities so as to be able to act in the best way; on another level, the obligation the public authorities to provide all with the means to develop and reach their own capacities.9

            This implies a whole series of reforms within the Na-tional Constitutions of every European country to assign sub-sidiarity its place in the social construct according to the Treaty of Europe. Beyond the specific juridical particularities, discussion concentrates on two main fronts. One is the whole series of legal reforms and modifications at both the national and the confederate level. In this sense, the dis-cussion concentrates mainly on the necessary reforms of na-tional constitutions to include the principle of subsidiarity, either in the form of a recommendation, declaration or direc-tive, or as an amendment regarding the role of the European Constitution. Around those two fronts the debate is whether the ultimate competence is to be left to the European Tribunal and Commission, or to the regions and national states. Here four areas are of immediate concern: economics and monetary integration, the social and environmental issues, foreign policy, and the Europe of peoples (or from another pers-pective, the Europe of nations).

            In any case, the history of subsidiarity in the framework of European construction is neither lineal nor uniform. On the contrary, it is an issue in whose discussion different interests converge with equally multiple goals. The comprehension and application of subsidiarity is really a story of multiplicities, rather than of simple unity.10 In such a state of affairs the clari-fication of subsidiarity is a task which lies ahead. In this task clearly there are two groups. On the one hand, there are those who believe that it is necessary to define what subsidiarity is, not only for its actualization but as the most expeditious way to clarify the range of its possible applicability. This is an eminently juridical reading of subsidiarity, from which point of view "philosophies" are too vague to determine the exact meaning and significance of the concept. On the other hand, there are the understandings of subsidiarity not so much in juridical and constitutional, but in sociopolitical, terms, as for example in the ecologists’ positive concern for subsidiarity. From this point of view, it is not so much an already esta-blished and determined concept, but a leading principle or a guide to action. The former is an objective or objectivist de-finition of the problem; the latter is a subjective or subjectivist reading of the concept. The issue of subsidiarity lies in the ten-sion between both positions, to which for the immediate fu-ture there is no foreseeable simple solution. This is typical of the specific tension found in liberal Western democracies, to which I shall return below.



            The principle of subsidiarity11 then has a quite deter-mined place, date, author and situation of origin. There is ge-neral agreement that its political and philosophical roots can be traced back without doubt to the work of Proudhon and J. Stuart Mill;12 others would trace its antecedents as far back as St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. However, here we shall consider two fundamental aspects now being discussed with regard to subsidiarity. First, we shall move beyond the theo-retical and philosophical reference to such authors and philo-sophical schools such as Mouniers’ personalism or Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Rather we shall try to specify the reason why the principle of subsidiarity appears at this deter-mined moment in the development of human society. Con-versely, this will explain why it was impossible or at least extremely difficult for it to emerge in earlier formations of citizen consciousness. Secondly and on this basis we shall try to determine as accurately as possible -- avoiding speculation or at least adoption of any "point of view" -- the most charac-teristic features of subsidiarity both its general and in its particular traits. On the contrary, our effort will be directed not to definitions, but towards understanding what in truth we are dealing with when we treat subsidiarity.

            There is a very clear sociological picture explaining solidly and coherently the social and cultural framework that gives rise to the principle of subsidiarity.13 It locates the ori-gins of modern society in the process of structural and func-tional differentiation (Durkheim) by which two powers are to be distinguished and separated: the political and the religious. As a consequence of that separation a differentiation between the social processes and the psychic process takes place (Simmer). This differentiation means that the individual can take some distance from the different forces and groups of so-ciety -- family, church, political parties, unions, etc. This pro-cess of individuation constitutes the basis for any social con-tract14 and takes place in as much as the individual separates from the ties that "naturally" bound him. Where the individual typically had been completely bound to determined social in-stances in medieval societies, "the breaking up of segmentary and comprehensive structures and the resulting ability, conse-quently, to participate in different groups is an effect accom-panying the processes of structural and functional differentiation."15

            In contemporary society individuals participate in a multiplicity of functional systems, which due to their relative autonomy are without a major inter-coordination. Even better: the various functional systems are no longer in a hierarchical relationship, but in the best of the cases can be said to be in multiple complementary relationships. However, the various functional systems are organized on the basis of a more or less rigid or inflexible bureaucratic structure which in technical terms determines hierarchies, distributes competencies and responsibilities and enjoins a professional character for the personnel and a relatively impersonal character to their services (Weber). Nonetheless, this picture should not be interpreted in rigorous terms due to the open character of organizations, so that there always are more chains of action and greater interdependence. Here, the development of tech-nology and the informatic processes plays an ever more central role. By enlarging the chains of action and the inter-connections the outcome reflects especially the sophistication of the control processes and hence the increasing complexity in the organization of the instances responsible for decision-making. The social functions in their interdependence end up configuring highly sophisticated and complex social cyber-netics. The key seems to depend on the combination of the processes of centralization and decentralization, in an effort to rescue the advantages of each.

            From various angles that organization of the social cybernetic has been the object of numerous critiques.16 Over against the highly organized and structured society, the qua-lities of the lower scale communities have emerged more re-cently as the merits of elementary solidarities with their dif-ferent modalities and aims are rescued. Moreover, some times over against major and minor indifference or impotence on the part of the state and its forces, apparatuses and powers to con-front the needs of the communities and instances of solidarity reinforce the idea of a possible "communitarian ethics". From this perspective, in contrast or reaction to the principles long defended and promoted by the central powers, a certain ethical pragmatism seems to be being rediscovered at the most basic scale of society. The tension is between large scale plan-ning policies and the needs and urgencies of everyday life.

            This framework explains the great contradiction encom-passed semantically by the concept of subsidiarity. The term comes originally from Latin subsidium, that is, "help". Against this simple interpretation of subsidiarity in terms of help, along with the subsequent analyses concerning specific helping mechanisms and responsible competencies, there stands an understanding of subsidiarity as "substitute". Thus, the point becomes an appeal beyond law to the actions, res-ponsibilities and decisions of organizations in a lower scale as a more rational and efficient way to resolve the demands that the state and large scale organizations in general cannot satisfy: the big organization and the state are hence sub-stituted by the smaller.

            It becomes evident that around this principle of sub-sidiarity cluster the most important problems of social and political philosophy, as well as those of social ontology. Pre-cisely for this reason subsidiarity turns out to be the cross-roads of problems concerning not only economy, law and public and business administration, but also sociology and the theory of the state. As such, the effective comprehension and solution of what is implied by subsidiarity constitutes a vast set of tasks in which all social forces and actors participate.

            For strictly heuristic reasons the problems arising from, or originating around, subsidiarity are stressed here. But it is to be noted that above all the common and truly substantive elements in the description of subsidiarity include, among others: a) the priority of person as both origin and end of society; b) that the person’s development is through social relations; c) that social relations and communities must pro-vide all the necessary conditions for the development of indi-viduals; d) that by the same token large scale communities must fulfill the same function for low scale communities; e) that the sense of personal responsibility must be promoted at all levels; f) that therefore subsidiarity fulfills a regulative role in the distribution of competencies in the various levels and scales; and g) that subsidiarity is a formal principle whose metaphysical ground is the person.

            Against a possible generalization of the concept that could lead to its abstraction, it is necessary to point out the main problems which subsidiarity implies or entails.17 As has been said above the effective comprehension and solution of those problems call for different sciences, disciplines and pra-ctices. There is a necessary relation in the understanding and solution of those problems to political structures. The fourth section will treat their logical structure; here I shall identify only the list of related problems.

            The first problem of the principle of subsidiarity is its relation to the principles and practices of a pluralist demo-cracy. This is all the more evident in the politics of liberal western democracies which are grounded on conflicting prio-rities and principles. The essence of a pluralist democracy is the acknowledgment and acceptance of conflict. In contrast, as notes H. Arendt, it is characteristic of totalitarian systems that individuals are not eliminated, but become banal, which is perhaps the most subtle form of suppressing conflict.

            The first form of conflict in pluralist democracies is bet-ween the different instances in charge of decision-making, and the clear acknowledgment of responsibilities. This is re-flected technically by expressions which points to different levels of hierarchy and their competencies.

            The second problem concerns the judicial and con-stitutional reforms that make possible the articulation of sub-sidiarity. In the most accurate way possible, these reforms should point towards regional, national and international powers -- in each case according to the particularities of place and moment. The technical expression of this second problem is the process of centralization and decentralization, along with processes of unity at each level and among the various levels themselves.

            On the basis of the two powers just mentioned and in accord with the way they are understood and exercised, the third problem is the elucidation of common interest, the com-mon good and hence (social) justice. Subsidiarity consists also in this problem, though not solely, for subsidiarity is a combination of efficiency (or efficacy), flexibility and differ-entiation.

            On the basis of the differentiation between the private and public spheres along with their characteristics and needs, the fourth problem is to enable joint or collective, as well as individual, action. This engages the theory of action and of ra-tional choice;18 issues of technical functions, hierarchies and articulations involved in subsidiarity both "top-down" and "bottom-up." The technical expression of this problem is the comprehension of the functions, hierarchies and "top-down" or "bottom-up" articulation of subsidiarity.

            Finally, a fifth problem lies in relationships between subsidiarity, solidarity, cooperation, and -- in more encom-passing analyses -- human rights. Thus the work converges in treating the administrative, judicial, social, economic and ecological significance and difficulties of subsidiarity. We have not found reference to the relation of subsidiarity to hu-man rights, but this could be related to the more technical and time-conditioned preoccupations of the construction of the European Union.



            In the present state of affairs, the principle of subsi-diarity corresponds to a well-determined aspiration and goal, namely, the construction of a European Confederation in the (present) form of the European Union. However, the im-portance of the conceptual problem involved lies in the series of challenges and tasks this entails. This encompasses dif-ferent areas of action, decision and knowledge which should not and cannot be reduced uniquely and exclusively to the construction of the EU. Similarly, though it certainly responds to real preoccupations on the part of the Catholic Church in particular and Christianity in general, the principle of subsi-diarity should not be reduced only to those domains. More than to determined patterns and criteria in the largest sense of the word, the principle of subsidiarity responds rather to the modern transformations in progress in societies and states. Thus the concept engages us all, both believers and non-believers, Catholics and defenders of other religious ideas, religious and lay, public functionaries and normal citizens and the like.

            Alongside the destiny of political states themselves, another forceful element which seems increasingly to mark the destiny of peoples and societies, and of such organizations of civil society as political parties, churches, universities, and others is the strong tendency to integration and unification both regional and sub-regional, first, at the sub-continental level in Latin America and Africa and then continental and worldwide. In the first forms of those processes of integration and unity economic motivations are the main mobilizing factor for constituting subsidiarity. But along with economic motivations there are others, such as the integration and sharing of common cultural or ecological interests, which go beyond the natural consequences of the process of economic, commercial or financial integration. This can be illustrated by the most recent experiences in the history of Latin America which manifest the universal vectors of subsidiarity. But the import of the following observations should not be reduced solely to the Latin American framework, for they can be vali-dated analogously also in other latitudes.

            Increasingly, the destinies of entire governments are de-cided and executed in "dependence" upon "macro" policies of unity and integration, so that there is less hegemony in de-cision-making at the national level. Instead of focusing on this relative loss of hegemony by national governments and states, however, the issue is to discover the potentialities implicit in the processes and tendencies of integration and unity. This has become a patent tendency at all levels of social, cultural and political life. As mentioned above, technology and the infor-mation processes play a fundamental role in that processes.19

            More and more, the life of individuals and the existence and development of various groups and communities are en-gaged with, and dependant upon, those processes of uni-fication. In Latin America as in Europe those decisions come, as it were, upon individuals "from above" in the form of go-vernmental policies. At least, this is the case in the beginning and over a relatively long period of time, but after con-siderable cultural education those processes are interiorized as the basis of society and assumed into everyday life.

            As began to appear from various angles some decades ago, the destiny of the nation-state which characterized in the nineteenth century and was projected from some decades into the twentieth century clearly tends to disappear. Beyond the technical aspects belonging to a general theory of state or to economic theory in general and to economic politics in par-ticular, this phenomenon is not without interest for us because of its evident consequences for the destiny of civil society and, with it, of the individual’s life and solidarity and sub-sidiarity in community.

            Regardless of whether this tendency to regional, sub-continental or continental integration by the states comes from the suggestions and initiative of some regional power center20 or in accord with their own programs, what truly is mean-ingful is that from different angles it has made desirable the setting up of policies of integration and/or unity. Usually those processes of integration first and of unity afterwards, are preceded by long juridical and normative preparation of the field according to an agenda set in advance to make pos-sible viable processes of integration. In a broad sense those legal reforms can be characterized in a twofold manner. On the one hand, they deal with the modification of already existing legislations so that they no longer are obstacles to the subsequent steps of integration. On the other hand, but always parallel to the first, the creation of new normative systems facilitates the tendency towards unity among nations and states. In this process it becomes clear that almost all judicial norms preexisting the steps leading to integration and unity in the political, administrative economic and cultural orders are no longer valid, for the spirit that originally animated them was according to criteria and patterns typical of the nineteenth century.

            Thus, tacitly or explicitly, what is at stake is the notion of the common good, or even better it is in function of a new notion of the common good that common actions are under-taken which evidently favor unity and integration. All that implies a total revision of the criteria, parameters and contents of the previous idea of the common good. The issue of sub-sidiarity -- the problem itself, its definition and solution, and the way in which it is understood and articulated -- consists in this. For the study and systematic thematization of the pre-suppositions, conditions and consequences of the actions to be undertaken by the different public and private organiza-tions are in accord with the idea of the common good that can be reached by the modes of integration and unity.

            Thus, for any further technical interpretation, whether juridical or merely administrative, the underlying presuppositions of the creation of new conditions for a better develop-ment of society and its living standards are based on the principle of subsidiarity. Therefore, the more adequately these are thematized and brought to the public light, the more the conditions for the development of society, its organiza-tions and individuals, improve. Over a long period of time this almost always has adopted the form of merely economic, financial, commercial and juridical processes. This image ge-nerally prevails in the consciousness of citizens, who conse-quently do not feel directly or immediately concerned as they see only the big companies, multinational enterprises, and main service and financial sectors benefiting. Under such a state of affairs, subsidiarity remains distant from the con-sciousness of citizens, who care much more for the most im-mediate, everyday decisions and actions. Of course, such a situation can change in favor of an appropriation of the prin-ciple of subsidiarity in the various communities in which civil society is constituted. But in the meantime the principle will continue to be a technical category without many roots in the life world. Hence, the destiny of the principle of subsidiarity depends completely on the way it is referred to everyday life.21

            Therefore, what truly is at stake concerning subsidiarity is finally the quality and the conditions of social life. It is pre-cisely in function of the generation and/or broadening of the conditions of life and the development of social life - politi-cally, civil, culturally and ecologically -- that an account of the origin, concept and definition of subsidiarity is possible? Here subsidiarity entails two basic presuppositions: the sepa-ration of responsibilities and the existence of a hierarchical order of social units. What is to be understood by those presu-ppositions, how they are articulated and in which way they are to be thematically or conceptually developed depends upon the meaning and nature of the increase and/or generation of better conditions of life for individuals and social organiza-tions. Thus, at the center of the problem of subsidiarity, as its engine and source, is the much more fundamental problems of the rationality of social organizations and institutions, of deci-sion-making, of understanding and solving the problems of social and political life in general, and finally, of the rationa-lity itself of actions -- all of which in general terms are pro-blems of practical reason. Primarily the relationships between normativity, free agreement (contracts and the bargaining processes), flexibility and the capacity for adaptation to new circumstances all are grounded in, and completely derived from, what practical rationality is or can be.

            To put this in another perspective, if what is at stake con-cerning subsidiarity is the whole set of problems, challenges and themes defining what it is to facilitate in the best or the most rational way the development of social and individual life, then what is finally at stake in the principle of subsidiarity is the concept itself of citizen and citizenship in the multiple modes noted above in note 22 of chapter III.22 Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between the different concepts of the citizen, and hence of the rights involved in each case. Thus, for example, we have to differentiate not only the general spheres of the state and civil society, but more specifically the spheres of political, economic, and civic and social rights. Im-plicitly this parallels the classification of human rights into those of the first generation (political), the second generation (economic and civic), and the third generation (social, cultural and ecological).

            Thus, the point is not simply to establish criteria for as-sessing whether society exists a priori in order to serve indivi-duals, or whether individuals develop fully only in function of, and in accord with, the levels of development and of pos-sibilities entailed by a determined society -- and hence whe-ther finally they are obliged to surrender completely to so-ciety. Nor does the point -- important, but Byzantine in its technical nature -- concern whether or not subsidiarity should be legislated and have a normative juridical status, which in the best case would be Constitutional. Whether or not sub-sidiarity can become law as a principle, amendment or direc-tive, or can become part of eventual international consti-tutions neither enhances nor diminishes subsidiarity, nor does it solve satisfactorily the problem of subsidiarity itself; in this sense, the juridical status of subsidiarity within a constitu-tional framework is analogous to that situation of human rights. Nor does it consist in the simple fact of being written into national and international legislation; though that contri-butes to respect for rights and to the denunciation of their vio-lations, it is not the reason why the theme of human rights acquires the great status we saw in the first chapter. Human rights, solidarity and subsidiarity are similar in their juridical, social or political status, as well as logically, epistemologically and ontologically. Nonetheless, as we shall see imme-diately, the concept of subsidiarity does have a clear and distinctively determinable status in whose light the signifi-cance of the social, political, cultural and ecological issues in constructing civil society are made manifest.


            It can be said that the principle of subsidiarity has various dimensions and can be studied from different angles. Nonetheless the interest here, motivated by the task of think-ing out the features and conditions of possibility of a social ontology, is to concentrate on its ontological status, in terms of which it is engaged in the construction of civil society. Due to its recent emergence in constructing of a union of states at the international level, the principle of subsidiarity is seen as dealing with the new construction, integration or formation of a big federation of several states or nations, notwithstanding their linguistic and ethnological particularities. Behind this, however, lies its basic meaning in the generation or the ex-pansion of the conditions for the development of economic, political and social life by already existing organizations and individuals. This consists in the effort to transform and create other organizations in response to the challenge of unity and integration. In a word, if subsidiarity is a sociopolitical con-cept, its meaning is to elucidate the themes and tasks of the construction of civil society.

            Furthermore, the expression "the construction of the civil society" is not a kind of deus ex machina in the sense that before the principle of subsidiarity -- along with the principle of solidarity -- there was no civil society. On the contrary, the expression suggests, rather than a temporal beginning, the common task of broadening and developing the space and real conditions that make life in community possible in the speci-fic context of the contemporary world. However, where that space is closed, as in the analogous case of human rights, then the task is to generate that space.

            The principle of subsidiarity consists precisely in the constitution of the problem and its possible real solution of defining the new criteria for regions and the optimal con-ditions for the multiple processes of integration and unity among peoples and states, and the organizations that com-pound them. "Regions" refer to determined geopolitical spaces juridically delineated, but with a clear and irreversible tendency towards integration and unity in all possible and necessary domains. "Conditions" refer to precise articulations of that tendency which focuses on such problems as those mentioned in presenting the origin and context of subsidiarity. The evident, clear and irreversible tendencies towards inte-gration and unity should not be understood in fatalist or deter-minist terms, for it is precisely at this point that all the criteria of rationality previously mentioned, that is, the rationality of decisions, of responsibilities and of collective and individual actions come into play. This rationality ultimately is judged in accord with whether the achievements have been reached and in the time and way in which they were reached. Therefore, the social, economic or other policies of a regime, or the need for a determined form of action and organization, may be accepted as legitimate, or, on the contrary, they may be criti-cized and rejected as being no longer sufficient or satisfac-tory. The criteria finally defining such judgments are the achievements and the efficiency or efficacy of the plans pre-viously traced.

            The problem of the enlargement and/or development of ever better conditions of possibility for the evolution of life in community, or in behalf of individuals in the organizations in which they relate to one another "inwards" or "outwards" to-ward other communities--that problem is the exact equivalent of, and is translated as, the task of constructing civil society.

            Now, in order to understand precisely in what civil so-ciety consists in its contemporary meaning it must be noted that civil society is compounded of, and necessarily articu-lated through, multiple groups precisely as plural. This is the basic feature distinguishing contemporary society from others in the history of humanity; it is a nuclear part of social onto-logy.

            Certainly, within the whole set of problems concerning the distribution of competencies and responsibilities and the forms and levels of decision making and the actions deriving therefrom, the principle of subsidiarity refers also to the state and, in general terms, to a general theory of the state. None-theless, by a methodological delimitation, it is possible also to restrict subsidiarity and consider mainly its contributions to the construction of civil society.23

            Two basic traits are to be distinguished in order to study the reciprocal connections and correlations between the two. That the contemporary Western or "westernizible" society is the determinant present form of society in the world is easily observable, though not uniformly, on the five continents. Such a society is organized around, and at the same time con-stituted by, its own units, namely, contemporary cities. Such societies are characterized, on the one hand, by multiplicity and plurality and, on the other, by the existence of dynamic unities in permanent transformation. This transformation has two main simultaneous vectors: one is accelerated processes towards the globalization and internationalization of life in those societies; the other is the conformation of "microscopic", multiple and varied unities. Let me explain.

            Civil society is in principle a democratic unity con-stituted by the existence of multiple structures, and by the defense or pluralism or diverse order. In one and the same geographical space designated generically as the city24 the presence of multiple styles of life and of organizations of all kinds, in many cases without intrinsic relation with one ano-ther, is unquestioned. The coexistence of multiple unities is no longer a matter of principle, taste or preference. On the con-trary, multiplicity and pluralism shape the situation of life in contemporary society. The fact that inside society there are associations, ideologies and even actions that define them-selves as different from, and more or less in open opposition to, other organizations, ideologies and attitudes, not merely affects the evolution of society, but constitutes it. However, as will be shown immediately, the touchstone that serves to define the legitimacy or illegitimacy of those associations, ideologies and behaviors within the life of a society and its development is the absence or presence of violence, the way in which violence exists, and how it is exercised.

            Besides the coexistence of multiple unities, a second basic trait typical of the construction of contemporary society is the existence of a pluralism. Thus, we can speak of a relatively large, organic space for the exercise of an ideo-logical pluralism in the broadest sense of the word; that is, as social representations and images, a cultural pluralism (psy-chological, for instance), a political pluralism (attitudes), and a philosophical pluralism (principles). Hence, factual multi-plicity and pluralism imply each other. The problem therefore is to think the unity of society in its different forms: political, economic, juridical, military, cultural and so forth. In other words, the more general the subject of the construction of a unity (such as a generic "social consciousness") the less pos-sible it is to work out in terms of traditional formal logic any real identity, such as a national identity.

            The big challenge consists in conceiving unity with mul-tiplicity, or unity with plurality. Upon the way in which we may be able to solve that logical or philosophical problem de-pends the destiny of the life of society and of the communities existing therein. By the same token, on this depends as well the destiny of the forms of unity and integration of one society with another, or of one culture with another. Thus, the pro-blem of sensibilization vis-à-vis the other, as observed in the chapter on "Solidarity", acquires connotations of a larger scale when referred to in terms of subsidiarity. However, instead of giving intellectual priority to this problem, it is pos-sible also that in the development of the social, political and cultural life of individuals and communities, the problem of unity and multiplicity, can be solved de facto, that is to say, from living experiences. Such a de facto solution to the pro-blem is meant to put aside as ineffective and senseless any far-ther discussion concerning "principles". In reality, the prac-tical solution to the problem is translated in terms of, and con-sists exactly in, social fellowship and the rational or rea-sonable interrelation among the different forms of organi-zation of their activities and decisions.

            Therefore, the big challenge of constituting subsidiarity is the adaptation of organization, unities, plans, and policies that correspond to the flexibility and the more or less acce-lerated transformation of the life of societies and of their orga-nizations and structures. Implicit here is an issue which can be stated as follows: are human societies mechanisms for con-serving the life of those same societies or, on the contrary, are they open to change? Instead of answering those questions, a priori and from predetermined positions, it is necessary to refer to the present vectors of the transformation in course in human communities. The questions just asked will constitute, in part, the content of the next section.

            Two main vectors mark the processes of growing, con-forming and constructing contemporary civil society. The first vector is more general; it is an evident process of globa-lization which translates into a clear tendency first towards integration, and afterwards ideally towards unity. The second vector is more particular and supplies the general tendency to globalization and internationalization on two basic plains. On the one hand, there is the interest of the state itself and of what is known in English as the "establishment" towards integra-tion and unity with other nations and similar organizations. The form this adopts is one "open frontiers" and the gradual or total diminution or elimination of all kind of barriers, such as tariffs, to free movement, etc. This challenge implies, and at the same time plainly leads to, the problem of subsidiarity.

            On the other hand, this tendency towards integration and unity is equally visible at the non-state levels of the life of na-tions and peoples, especially in the specific structures and or-ganizations of civil society (the world of academic, cultural, civic and political organizations, of churches, labor unions, etc.). In such cases the issue is mainly that of an interchange of experiences on the basis of which there is the task of "extra-state" integration among different organizations at the na-tional level from one region to another, or at the international level from one country to another and among various states or peoples. (Nonetheless, sooner or later, whether in an affir-mative or a critical sense, it is necessary to encounter the pre-sence of the state and the ruling normative mechanisms it esta-blishes.) Examples of processes of integration and inter-nationalization in this second case are religious, political, cul-tural and academic organizations.

            To be sure, "between" both the above vectors, and per-haps out of identification with a determined organization of civil society -- which belonging can be taken in the strongest sense -- at the level of individuals there also can be processes and tendencies of integration and unity. Such is the case, for instance, of personal contacts among individuals of different nationalities either orally through international broadcasting, or via different media. Other cases could be mentioned, such as tourism or other trips abroad, etc. But all that remains out-side the domain of subsidiarity.

            A second vector present in the transformation and con-stitution of contemporary society is the conformation -- some-times it is natural even to use the expression: "rediscovery" -- of social unities and practices which, at least quantitatively, are more basic and at a lower scale. Usually, cooperation, soli-darity and high ideals, with a heavy charge of idealism, con-stitute the basic motivations for creating such low-scale com-munities. In some cases they are "experiments" of various kinds in search of better options, as well as of more effective and rational action than that currently sedimented in the com-mon life of societies. In some other cases, on the contrary, they are negative attitudes of reaction or escape from the mar-ginal or marginalizing attitudes, practices, habits and beliefs sedimented and ruling within society.

            We might, however, put aside such phenomena as the duration in time of those communities, their extension, the major or minor openness towards other individuals and social groups and linguistic concerns. What is truly relevant is that the vector of that creation and proliferation of groups in a lower scale is contemporary with, and parallel to, the pre-viously mentioned vector of the coexistence of multiplicities and pluralities within society, thus constituting the very com-plex unity which is life in contemporary civil societies.

            Accordingly, whether on a major or a minor scale, whe-ther in the public or the political sphere, and whether in rela-tion to the state or to civil society, the coexistence of different temporal structures is irrefutable. Subsidiarity is the outcome of this and also must provide an answer to the complex pro-blem of their coexistence. This is the precise dilemma to which point two related problems: either of assigning respon-sibilities or of necessarily entailed decisions which have norma-tive implications, along with the actions which set those deci-sions into practice. Once again, the fact that the expression of the problem is mainly juridical, economic or administrative does not mean that the problem is exhausted or consists ex-clusively in those representations. Such is precisely the im-portance and the challenge of the conceptual problem of subsidiarity. In this sense it can be said that the concept of subsidiarity evolves as does the concept of human rights.

            For the effective comprehension and application of the principle of subsidiarity, the acknowledgment of differences within the overall social and political universe sets up the task of recuperating and acknowledging these internally in the organizations. The suppression and negation of the impor-tance of the principle of subsidiarity goes hand in hand with the more or less open defense of the anonymity of social and political life in which the distances between people is the very outcome of the efficiency of the services of the organizations. The great enemy of subsidiarity, in other words, is the concept and reality of bureaucracy, which has its own system of values and psychology.

            A democratic society is quite the opposite of an ano-nymous society or one which directly or by way of omission promotes an anonymity and distancing of individuals, social organizations and structures in the life-world as such.25 Clearly the larger and more extended a social and political unity, the more possibilities there will be for citizens and for the members of that social and political unity to constitute democratic and social structures.26


            OF HISTORY

            An important presupposition of the principle of sub-sidiarity is that it is charged with, or accompanied by, an air of optimism consisting in the implicit sense that human society, its construction, possibilities and problems make sense and that this is disclosed in the course of time and in the evolution of social life itself.

            The idea may seem a truism, but more is to be said of the process by which it is made an explicit presupposition of a philosophy of history or of culture based upon the principle of subsidiarity. For the social optimism based on subsidiarity does not go without saying; in fact, there are other positions which are opposed or at least definitely indifferent to the im-plications and consequences we have been examining as the principle of subsidiarity. These opposite positions with their implicit psychology are not always marginal or easy to rebut. On the contrary, it is rather within the processes that mobilize and execute the principle of subsidiarity that, perhaps in a sly form, there is mistrust, indifference or skepticism as regards the whole set of problems which define the concept of sub-sidiarity. A generic title to designate this variety of postures is "instrumental reason" or "instrumental rationality."

            There are two concepts or notions of instrumental ra-tionality. On the one hand, in a negative sense, instrumental rationality has been defined and criticized to its foundations especially by the Frankfurt School of Horkheimer and Adorno, and from another perspective or with other aims by Habermas. On the other hand, in a positive or at least a not necessarily negative sense, the concept of instrumental reason is used in recent developments of Anglo-Saxon philosophy and social sciences. This is not the place to trace exhaustively the similarities and differences between the two comprehensions. However, to clarify the sense in which we are as-sociating instrumental reason with the rejection of, or indi-fference to, the principle of subsidiarity, we shall identify the general features of instrumental reason current in Anglo-Saxon philosophy. This brief detour will allow us to explain our critique of the concept of instrumental reason regarding subsidiarity.

            In Anglo-Saxon philosophy the general theory of ra-tionality is a compound of two, or really three, theories: a theory of rational choice, a theory of rational beliefs and, for both, a theory of instrumental reason. The main problem in constituting a theory of instrumental reason is the relation of means to ends, for the central problem of instrumentality is that of the effects and results -- concrete, verifiable, and pro-ductive -- of reason. Thus, the strong form of instrumentality is causal in which on the basis of determined "inputs" "several outputs" can be predicted, controlled and hence obtained. What is important is that for a causal-instrumental account of rationality, the standards of rationality must depend upon one’s view of the character of this world and upon the view of what people are like, with their capacities, powers, disa-bilities, and weaknesses27 In this sense instrumentality is con-stitutive of subsidiarity, especially if, even in a limited man-ner, one understands the principle of subsidiarity in eminently administrative, juridical and political terms. Nonetheless, as mentioned, the significance of subsidiarity is moreover also ecological and social, namely, to generate and enlarge the effective conditions for the development of citizenship and of life in community. In a word, subsidiarity is a "tool" created to apply, enlarge, improve and render more rational the founding idea of the common good in the name of common interests. In spite of the functionaries’ complaints, subsidiarity is hence fundamentally an ethical and therefore a philosophical pro-blem.

            Subsidiarity has technical reason as a medium through which it exists and is realized; this exists under the specific form of functionaries and bureaucracy. Its negative facet has been criticized sufficiently and clearly by Horkheimer, Adorno and Habermas, who object that knowledge is thereby manipulated by certain interests: economic, political or mili-tary. In this second sense, instrumental reason consists of, and is carried out in, two characteristic and closely interrelated modes. One the one hand, there is a tendency towards gigan-tism in accord with a very strong tendency towards self-suffi-ciency and the consequent exclusion of such other forms of rationality as the symbolic, axiological, communicative and the like. On the other hand, instrumental reason exists under the exclusive form of representative or representational thinking, whose model is material and economic production. As a consequence interest is superimposed over any other activity or capacity such as free speculation, emancipatory knowledge, and others; persons are instrumentalized; and so-cial mechanisms and structures are generated for the sole purpose of making society a large cybernetic system. The ana-lysis and the political outcome of such social cybernetics is to be found, as a distinctive example, in the work of K. Popper.28

            The tendency towards gigantism is one of the aber-rations in the development and the application of subsidia-rity.29 As already has become evident in similar cases, the great challenge here is centralism in decisions making, as-signing competencies and the distribution of responsibilities. "The bigger the better," in the sense of more rational and more efficient. The demand for checks and critiques comes from the so-called "minor" instances in, and from outside, bureaucratic structures.

            The strongest critique of the instrumentalization of individuals and of different forms of social and civic organi-zation by public or private, vertical or cybernetic structures, comes from Kantian philosophy and others who find in Kant a solid defense of the human person. The Kantian principle is to consider everyone else as oneself -- not as a means but an end in him or herself. This implies that all else, whether the state, civil and religious organizations, or any other principle or value, has the function of a means for the affirmation and development of individuals and their possibilities.

            To be sure, instrumental reason in this second sense is directed as a means to the end of social life as a whole, pre-supposing therefore a relative indifference towards the ulterior "progress" of civil society as well as of its component individuals and organizations. Rationality sees everything as subject to various strategies in a permanent game of means and ends, cost, benefits, etc. On the other hand, when well understood, the principle of subsidiarity presupposes in the evolution of civil society a certain convergence of its diverse organizations and of the connections and associations among individuals. It is at this level that we reformulate the question: is civil society a conservative unity, or is it open to change?

            There is a general assumption that society is conser-vative and has as its function the preservation of life and institutions, that when left to itself it has an inertia resistant to transformations, sudden leaps and in general to any form of revolution. Such an idea is based upon the belief that human nature is by essence conservative and, therefore, that the creation of civil society with its organizations and functions has the purpose of protecting life from sudden shocks and un-certainties that might perhaps produce a "state of nature". From such a point of view, the creation of society, as of the state, tends to eliminate or control as much as possible an "ori-ginary state of violence".

            In contrast there is the opinion that the goal of society is, and must always be, to contribute by all means to the develop-ment and affirmation of individuals in the various forms of association they adopt. Whereas the first idea was based on a preventive natural law approach, the idea that society has the expressed purpose of promoting the development and affir-mation of individuals has an underlying progressive natural law approach.

            The principle of subsidiarity corresponds to the latter, for the individual can develop in the best and most rational way only in conformity with social norms of fellowship and within a universe of values and behaviors guaranteed not only by the whole of civil society, but by the state as well. For this reason the processes of integration and unity are fully justified and give birth to the entire set of problems that constitute subsidiarity. (In contrast, positive law assumes the state to be the axis of any principle of reality and rationality, and there-fore that the individual and social and civic organizations are to subsumed under the state in a peripherical manner.30)

            Hence, it is important to center upon the existing corre-lation between the principle of subsidiarity and a certain opti-mism in individual, social, public and political life. On the basis of the principle of subsidiarity there is a determined philosophy of history or of culture. Whatever be its form, the course of political, administrative, economic and social de-cisions is always pulled forward by confidence that "things can and will be better". `How’ and `in which sense’ is, of course, the core question, but thusfar remains outside our pre-sent scope. Our purpose here is simply to make explicit that connection; its explicit thematization in the whole set of themes and problems which cluster around the theme of sub-sidiarity, along with the philosophy of history that underlies it, for now remains unexplored.

            In this same sense, it is not immediately relevant to situate exactly the form of the optimism which latently under-lies the comprehension and application of subsidiarity. The optimism which accompanies it can be formulated in terms of a certain confidence in community life as an open or generous horizon full of promise. That subsidiarity is a variation of the ancient myth of "progress" seems too evident to doubt, but the discussion of its cultural, metaphysical and religious roots, as well as of how that myth lost its vitality at this end of the se-cond millenium and of how solidarity and subsidiarity be-speak its renewals for the millenium to come is a task for the future.


            Is the principle of subsidiarity finally a juridical, poli-tical or administrative principle? If not, is it an ethical prin-ciple, and if so then how are we to understand "ethics"? Clearly the principle of subsidiarity is defined in terms of a heuristic value with evident consequences and implications, both theoretical and practical. Rather than being clearly de-fined and delimited, it is in our own view a heuristic problem.

            The recent revival of the principle of subsidiarity is a matter of discussion by the various political, juridical and administrative competencies in relation to the processes of integration and unity at a national, international and, ulti-mately, world or global scale. But its genetic analysis here makes it evident that the real problem is different, namely, to elucidate in what the theme of the common good consists, how it is articulated, and what are its implications; in a closely related manner the problem consists also in making clear what is the common interest. The great difficulty is clarifying the point of view from which we can speak of the "common good" or the "common interest".

            There are three basic possibilities. In one case, there is a generic Godlike view. But such a formal, universal "view from nowhere" does not contribute to solving the specific pro-blems to which one alludes when talking about common good and common interest.31

            A second and sharply contrasting view is tied to each particular case, moment, region and specific community. This, however, is a mere desideratum, not a reasonable and practicable alternative. The economic and administrative sciences make clear that this second option, perhaps prac-ticable at a very restricted range, is insufficient and irrational.

            In a third view, the common good and the common in-terest are interrelated concepts studied in accord with, and in view of, certain political, economic and ethical principles. This subsumes the concepts of common good and common interest under other more general theoretical frameworks. This makes it possible to situate the concepts which cluster around the theme of solidarity, but we are in no position to solve the problems to which they allude. The big difficulty with this third view is that what is defined as common good has no corresponding reality, leaving unfulfilled such con-cepts as justice -- whether social or distributive -- equality, equity, legality or legitimacy, and mechanisms of representation, participation, centralization and decentralization.

            Accordingly, these three views leave the problem wi-thout a satisfactory solution. This suggests that subsidiarity implies an intrinsic reference to problems, themes and con-cepts such as solidarity and human rights. This is the more true in that it is truly about what, philosophically speaking, we call establishing a social ontology. What is really at stake is the entire rationality of systems, functions, decisions and actions of persons and of social and political organizations in their relations with one another. Also, at stake are the possibilities for unfolding the properly human, that is, free life of indivi-duals and communities. In the end, these are possibilities for the development of personal, social and cultural life as a whole.

            From this standpoint, effective comprehension and ap-plication of the principle of subsidiarity does not consist in, nor is it exhausted by, administrative, economic or juridical procedures. Yet, neither is it possible to say simply that ethics alone can generate the meaning and effective mobilization of subsidiarity. On the contrary, subsidiarity is the intersection of two large areas of discussion and action. On the one hand, this is the whole set of problems constituting the reality of the mar-ketplace (Polis) -- whether in its commercial, economic or financial configuration, or in its social and political repre-sentation. (The category of "Polis" is very useful in grasping the multiplicity of meanings to which we are referring.32)On the other hand, subsidiarity encompasses also the area of social ethics, along such particular derivations as "business ethics", "political ethics", and the like, in contrast with a merely individual ethics. Here it is not important whether business or political ethics, as well as such other professional ethics as medical or legal, correspond or not to an ethics in the rigorous sense of the word or deal simply with deontological procedures and problems. The primary intention here is simply to identify an area, which also presents some am-biguities.

            The concept of subsidiarity helps us to understand and develop a series of problems and areas which are absolutely fundamental for understanding the possibilities of social and political life. What is truly meaningful is that the concept res-ponds to a manifest tendency towards integration and unity at the neighborhood, local, regional, national, international and, ultimately, world levels for the promotion of personal and community capacities. Certainly, it is an epochal concept, but if we are to take seriously the possibilities and their urgency for enlarging the juridical, economic, political, military and cultural frontiers in order to enable the improvement of life, then the concept of subsidiarity will continue to demand a common effort of understanding and application. Both in the proximate future and in the long run the processes of inte-gration and unity constitute our best possibility and demand rational and reasonable decisions and actions. It is both an individual and a collective task. This is not to say that the destiny of societies and of individuals depends on this task, as is clearly the case for solidarity and human rights. To affirm that the destiny of persons and communities is grounded on subsidiarity would be to extrapolate too much. But subsi-diarity does correspond to the set of mechanisms and pro-cedures through which that destiny is set to move; this is its importance.     


            1. The placing of such categories as "term" or "concept" between quotation marks suggests that the first uses of subsidiarity are introductory in character, perhaps even heu-ristic. We shall not from the start clarify exactly in what subsidiarity consists, for that is the aim of this chapter. On the contrary, the "term" or "concept" should be accepted pro-visionally and as having merely denotative value, namely, as dealing with the problem with which the following pages are concerned.

            2. Cf. A. Adonis and S. Jones, Subsidiarity and the Community’s Constitutional Future, Discussion Paper No. 2 (Center for European Studies; Oxford: Nuffield College, 1991), pp. 4 ff.

            3. One of the most important documents in this sense is the Nature and Future of Episcopal Conferences, H. Legrand, J. Manzanares and A. Garcia y Garcia, ed. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 1988.

            4. These are, among others: Non Abbiamo Bisogno, also from Pius XI, and Mater et Magistra (1961) and Pacem in Terris (1963) by John XXIII. The Second Vatican Council also makes reference to subsidiarity, particularly in the field of education. The subsequent writings of by Paul VI and John Paul II contain specific room for subsidiarity. In any case, here these indications have only indicative value. Those with other interests or purposes might wish to trace back the Va-tican documents in order to determine whether there are lin-guistic or other changes between one document and another, or between one period and another, for instance, between one Pope and another.

            5. Hence, it becomes evident that the introduction of the concept of subsidiarity by the Vatican is by no means a neutral formula. On the contrary, as explained in Quadragesimo Anno, subsidiarity "is as concerned with circumscribing the sphere of the political per se as it is with devolving political power to the lowest level possible within the political realm". At the same time, the principle of subsidiarity is governed by such Catholic principles as willing subjection to the authority of the Church itself. A. Adonis, "Subsidiarity: Myth, Reality and the Community’s Future", in "Subsidiarity As History and Policy," in Inquiry (London, Institute of Economic Affairs, 1990), pp. 2-3.

            6. The task is to safeguard "die Selbstandigkeit und die Eigenveranwortlichkeit des menschlichen Einzelwesens ge-genüber der Gesellschaft wie auch den kleineren gesell-schaftlichen Lebenskreise gegenüber den grösseren und um-fassenderen und dadurch den klar geordneten Stufenbau die aufeinander übergreifeinden Vergesellschaftungen". Quoted by A. Adonis and S. Jones, op. cit., p. 9 (Translation enlarged, C.E.M.).

            7. There is an evident though unmentioned historical presupposition concerning the multiple connections between earlier Catholic and, in a very broad sense, Christian history up to its recent generic extension to the construction of the European Community or Union. Beyond the merely economic preoccupation of responding to the strong pressure of Ja-panese economic, commercial and financial power, on the one hand, and their American counterparts, on the other, there is as well a desire to become an independent world block. In this there has been strong influence from Christian Democracy as well as from Catholicism itself in forming the European Com-munity or Unity. This should not be taken as if the influence of liberal and Social-democratic forces were necessarily minor. The point is rather to make a bridge between the "religious" and the "lay" origins of subsidiarity. Both origins correspond to one and the same vector, and there is really much more of a continuity between the two. The Liberal, Socialist and Social-democratic forces came to contribute to that process of for-mation after the first efforts and pillars had been established particularly by Christian Democracy.

            8. There is a difference between the concepts of Euro-pean Community and European Unity which consists in an ascending path from the first to the second. For reasons of language economy the two concepts will be used here without discrimination, especially as the immense majority of texts about subsidiarity refer to the construction of the European Community. Only after the Maastricht Treaty and the Agree-ments from Schengen has the second concept come to be more widely used over the first one. This reflects the strengthening of the European Unity. But as this is a unity in progress other concepts can be added afterwards; hence the use of those concepts here is less categorical and more denotative.

            9. Cf. J. Dolors, The Principle of Subsidiarity: Contri-bution to the Debates," in Subsidiarity: The Challenge of Change. Proceedings of the Jacques Delors Colloquiums (Maastricht, The Netherlands: European Institute of Public Administration, 1991), p. 18.

            10. Cf. among others, Subsidiarity within the European Community, A. Duff (Ed.) (Federal Trust for Education and Research, 1993), and A. Tyrie, "Subsidiarity -- What Should The Government Do", in Subsidiarity as History and Policy, op. cit.; R. Sinnott, "Integration Theory, Subsidiarity and the Internationalization of Issues: The Implications for Legitimacy", in Working Paper RSC, No. 94113, (Florence: Euro-pean University Institute, Robert Schuman Center).

            11. As used here, the expression "principle of sub-sidiarity" is really a generic designation used without as-signing to it further ontological or logical consequences. However, a principle is generally a guide to meaning or action. In this sense, it is perhaps implicit that the principle of subsidiarity contains a reference to a series of theoretical and practical tasks. Their nature will be clarified in the following.

            12. By Proudhon, cf. Du principle federatif et la necessité de reconstituer le parti de la revolution (1863). Usually there is agreement in stressing the importance Proud-hon gives to subsidiarity understood as a contractual principle for establishing and guaranteeing the social and political coherence of social and political life. -- As for J. Stuart Mill, cf. Consideration on Representative Government (1872).

            13. Among the best studies see firstly, F.X. Kaufman, "The Principle of Subsidiarity Viewed by the Sociology of Organizations"; then, L. Vote, "Subsidiarity from a So-ciologist’s Point of View". Both texts are to be found in The Nature and Future of Episcopal Conferences, pp. 275-291, and 292-297, respectively. Cf. also H. Geyser, "‘Subsidiaritaet’ im gesellschaftlichen Wandel", in Subsidiaritaet. Ein inter-disziplinaeres Symposium, op. cit., pp. 163-191.

            14. Contractualism as the basis for social and political unity not only exists in the classical versions of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, but recently has received further shades of meaning and more structured development. The most im-portant representative of this "new" contractarianism is doubtless D. Gauthier; see his Morals by Agreement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986). As the basis for any agreement, treaty or contract it supposes the autonomy and independence of the individual.

            15. F.-W. Kaufman, "The Principle of Subsidiarity . . .", op. cit., p. 283 (Underlining, C.E.M.).

            16. One of the most severe criticisms of the closed structuring of society, along with its relatively interdependent functional systems, has been in the work of R. Sennett; see particularly his The Uses of Disorder and The Fall of Citizen.

            17. Cf. J. A. Komonchak, "Subsidiarity in the Church: The State of the Question", in The Nature and Future of. ., op. cit., pp. 301-2.

            18. Cf. among others, J. Elster, Ulysses and The Sirens (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984), and The Cement of Society, (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989).

            19. Unfortunately I must leave aside here a more developed analysis concerning the importance of technology, not only for the general development of subsidiarity, but also and more generally for solidarity and human rights. The im-portance of technology is noted here for later clarification; such an analysis implies a philosophy of technology, though this is not the proper place for its elaboration.

            20. It should be mentioned that in the case of Latin American, African or Central and Eastern European countries despite their differences and particularities the tendency to in-tegration and unity responds to "suggestions" and invitations from certain highly developed centers. The term "suggestion" or "invitation" hides definite economic, political, cultural or other dependencies of the peripherical countries vis-à-vis the major centers of power. Notwithstanding, in the present case clearly there are two major vectors in the processes of unity and integration. One is the processes motivated by the na-tional governments themselves independently of the influ-ence from the developed centers. Generally, those attempts are made in a spirit of "self-protection", but end in failure. In Latin America the clearest example of this is the Andean Pact. In contrast with those failed attempts, the processes of inte-gration and unity sponsored somehow by the centers of deve-lopment have a much greater probability of consolidation and expansion -- for obvious reasons.

            21. This is the root of the proposal of J. Dolors, who is perhaps the main proponent of the idea of subsidiarity within the process of the creation of the European Union: "Subsi-diarity comes from a moral requirement of respect for the dignity and responsibility of the people who make up society and are its final goal", "The Principle of Subsidiarity: Contri-bution to the Debate", in Subsidiarity. The Challenge of Change, op. cit., p. 9.

            22. Cf. The Meanings of Citizenship (1994). In what follows I shall have the opportunity to refer to this book which consists of a very good selection of articles on citizenship in general.

            23. There remain a series of questions: Is it possible to be a good citizen when living in a bad state? Is it necessary to be a good citizen in a good state? And, in the absence of state, what kind of citizen is one to be? The most general question regards the necessity of the state itself. Though important, I shall omit these questions here, but wish to thank Nicholas Rescher for his suggesting their importance.

            24. However, this should not make us think, erron-eously, of the "city" as a unit opposed to, and independent of, the "countryside". That is a typical image from the nineteenth century which it is difficult to verify, particularly in de-veloped countries. It is also unclear whether that is going to be the destiny of the city-countryside relations in so-called Third World countries.

            25. Husserl’s phenomenology carries out a critical ana-lysis of European culture by distancing or even contrasting the sciences and/or scientific rationality over against the life-world so that neither can provide any satisfactory answer to the general question concerning meaning. Conversely, the phenomenological project needs to be completed or de-veloped towards technical rationality and its alienation from the life-world. To be sure, technical rationality as distinct from technological rationality, exists and is reproduced under the guise not only of state bureaucracy, but also of other organizations and structures. Further characterization of the bureaucratic form of technical rationality (such as accom-modation, opportunism, etc.) is beyond the present frame of reference. What is truly relevant though is to point this out as the greatest danger to subsidiarity.

            26. Cf. H. Hill, "The Social Dimension and Sub-sidiarity", in Subsidiarity: The Challenge of Change, op. cit., pp. 148ff. From another perspective, cf. A. Adonis, Subsi-diarity: No Panacea (London: European Policy Forum, 1994), and Ch. Giordano, "So viel Staat wie notig, so wenig Staat wie moglich: Ein interkultureller Vergleich", in Subsi-diaritat . . ., op. cit., pp. 131-161.

            27. R. Nozick, The Nature of Rationality (New Jersey: Princeton, 1993), pp. 134-5.

            28. I am thinking specifically of The Open Society and Its Enemies. However, it is possible to identify some other clear elements of that social cybernetics in other texts by Popper.

            29. That is a generalized remark in the process of the construction of the European Union, but it can be found also in other latitudes and on other scales. Gigantism consists in this specific case in a strong tendency towards centralization des-pite the intention of federalization or decentralization.

            30. Cf. M. Wilkes and H. Wallace, Subsidiarity: Ap-proaches. . ., op. cit.

            31. Cf. T. Navel, The View From Nowhere (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986).

            32. The adoption of the concept of Polis also contains some ambiguities within the specific framework of contem-porary societies. Thus, for example, the concept of Polis demands that we stipulate the place or typos of the public market place, and with it, the very typos of life. Whereas in ancient Greece the Polis had a specific place, as the public site, namely, the Agora or market place, in contemporary western societies the notion of the Agora tends to disappear. In fact, where are the "people"? Clearly they are not only and exclusively on the street or in the market place in the literal sense of the word. There is a strong tendency to see the people as being where the media of communication (radio, television, etc.) are. Thus, people are both nowhere and everywhere, even in everyone’s home, etc. It is necessary to define exactly the concept and the typos of the Agora in as much as the typos of the polis has fundamental significance in establishing the gua-rantees and conditions of possibility for democracy, and with it, ultimately, of social or political ethics.

            The use of the concept "people" is at the same time too generic and has simply a denotative value. "People" corres-ponds to a loose, though valid, translation for the French on and the German Der man. Therefore, the concept of the "people" is characterized by the authenticity and anonymity Heidegger analyzed in Being and Time. This is true also of all other readings deriving directly or indirectly from him, for example, E. Canetti’s analyses in Mass and Power.