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In the first section this article examines the different meanings of subsidiarity, its character as a doctrine of social philosophy and the origins of the concept of subsidiarity in the Community Treaties. The second section of this article describes the community approach to application, interpretation and review of compliance with subsidiarity. In this context, the Principle of Proportionality and the procedural requirement to Show Sufficient Grounds are considered as tools for judicial review and first developments in the case law of the European Court of Justice are discussed. Finally, against the background of political economic theory, the article will highlight a number of contradicting perspectives and limitations within the Principle of Subsidiarity.