Subsidiarity, Liberalism, Sovereignty, Theories of Authority
Although our attraction to subsidiarity may often be little more than skin deep, this article proposes that there is a hidden intelligibility to the phenomenon of its gaining increasing attention and prestige. That intelligibility can be discerned through a consideration of the archetype of authority that subsidiarity proposes: embedded authority, which acknowledges the existence of and mandates engagement with groups as groups. This archetype of embedded authority originally acted as a counterweight to the model of disembedded authority proposed by early theories of sovereignty, and in a similar way, subsidiarity’s consistent proposal of embedded authority currently operates as a counterweight to liberalism, with its individualistic emphasis. Against the backdrop of these diverging archetypes of authority, it becomes clearer that subsidiarity cannot be reduced to the status of a charming trinket to embellish liberalism’s public sphere. In fact, coming from an “alien” tradition, subsidiarity offers deep solutions to problems that liberalism itself cannot address.