The Autonomy of the Local State in a Period of Fiscal Crisis
This chapter explores the nature of local state autonomy in advanced industrial societies.1 By ‘local state’ we refer principally to municipalities although most of the arguments are applicable to all local jurisdictions such as suburbs and metropolitan counties (in Great Britain) as well as to relations between regional and local states in the United States (Clark, 1984). However the propositions developed in this study about state autonomy and state-city relations are focused specifically on cities rather than on other local jurisdictions. Cities in advanced industrial societies share a sufficiently common set of features to minimise concern about generalising across them (see Kirby, 1982, on the diversity of local authorities). This is not to deny that the concept of the ‘local state’ is itself problematic (an issue which will be treated in detail below). From a traditional perspective it can be argued that municipalities are so sharply circumscribed by central authorities that they constitute little more than agencies of the national state. Cockburn, whose 1977 study of the Lambeth Borough council of London introduced the term ‘local state’ into current social science discourse, writes from an Althusserian-informed neo-Marxist perspective according to which both the national and local state act primarily to facilitate capital accumulation.
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