Legitimation chain theory

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Chain of legitimation at the federal level, direct state administration, simplified
Legitimation chain of direct and indirect state administration as well as self-administration at federal, state and local level (greatly simplified and systematized)

The legitimation chain theory is a theory that traces the democratic legitimation of sovereign and non-sovereign action back in an uninterrupted chain to the will of the people in the election. Seen in political science categories, this is a consideration of the input legitimation that predominates in legal science .

The legitimation chain theory, one of the democratic theories, was developed by the legal philosopher Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde and found its way into the judiciary of his time as a judge at the Federal Constitutional Court .

Application to the EU

Applied to the European Union , there are two chains of legitimation: The first leads back to the voter via the European Parliament . The second leads back to the electorate via the Council of the European Union and the governments and parliaments of the member states.


  • Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde: Democracy as a constitutional principle (§ 24), esp.Rn 11-25, in: Josef Isensee / Paul Kirchhof (ed.): Handbuch des Staatsrechts der Bundes Republik Deutschland , Vol. II, 3rd edition, Heidelberg 2004.

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