Skip to main content

A New Typology of Local Government? Beyond North-South and East-West

  • 490 Accesses

Part of the Governance and Public Management book series (GPM)

Abstract

This chapter develops an empirical typology of local autonomy clustering countries with similar configurations. Aligning with the discrete quantitative approach emerging in the comparative literature, it tries to add depth and scope to the existing classifications whilst critically engaging with them. Empirically, the chapter draws on the dimensions of political discretion and financial autonomy recategorising scores as low, medium or high and probing into observable combinations thereof at the beginning, the middle and the end of the reference period. Three main conclusions stand out. First, it is possible to classify about 40 countries into 9 different types of local autonomy summarised into 4 ideal and 5 transitory types. Second, although central in existing classifications, geographical location only continues to matter to a certain extent according to our data. Third, as most of the existing classifications referred to stable state traditions, our findings suggest a combination of static as well as more dynamic features. Hence, we conclude that there is no such thing as a universal and encompassing typology of local autonomy that will be valid and reliable for the long term. Future research should revisit and update dimensions and classifications and delve deeper into the ontology and implications of their configurations.

Keywords

  • Local autonomy typology
  • Local government systems classifications
  • Country-configurations
  • Ideal versus transitory types
  • Geographical location
  • State traditions

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-95642-8_10
  • Chapter length: 22 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   89.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-95642-8
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   119.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Fig. 10.1
Fig. 10.2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Local government system here refers to the constitutive arrangement of institutions, actors and processes on and of the municipal tier characteristic of a country or equivalent subnational unit (Sellers 2005).

  2. 2.

    The first phase was mainly descriptive. In addition, and as part of the evolution inherent to the second phase, gradually more emphasis on change (over continuity) emerged. In the most recent third phase, the informal construction and persistence of arrangements and their effect on decision- and policy-making became central together with the development from analytical frameworks to more integrated theories (Stoker 2006).

  3. 3.

    The ultra vires rule has been replaced in the United Kingdom by the Localism Act in 2011. But discussed typologies are referring to historic traditions, in which the ultra vires play an important role in Anglo-Saxon countries.

  4. 4.

    Alternative positions stress differences preceding the communist era. Some countries developed along the lines familiar to the West (at times also the result of a specific connection with a particular country therein), whilst others were much more affected by the Ottoman Empire or Russia (Loughlin et al. 2010). In some instances (e.g. Poland or the Balkan), different influences appeared depending on the specific region of the country.

  5. 5.

    Characterised by undemocratic elections, real decision-making power in the hands of the communist party, strong bureaucratic steering and supervision, an ideology of democratic centralism and the predominance of economic structures over territorial entities.

  6. 6.

    Complicating the establishment of stable types in this group. However, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Illner (2003) already differed between East-Central Europe, the Baltic States, South-East Europe and the former USSR.

  7. 7.

    The types respectively refer to Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic; the Czech Republic , Estonia and Latvia; Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia , Macedonia , Moldova , Rumania, Slovenia and Ukraine; Georgia , Lithuania and Serbia; Armenia and Azerbaijan.

  8. 8.

    To be more precise, we refer to the earliest available data. For various reasons (mostly related to turmoil of the early post-communist transformation in Eastern Europe), we have no 1990 data for Albania, Latvia, Malta , Romania and Ukraine. In those cases, we take into account the earliest possible year, which respectively are 1992, 1991, 1993, 1992 and 1991.

  9. 9.

    Note that scores on effective political discretion to some extent also reflect the position of local government systems on the variable “policy scope” since high scores on EPD is measured as the sum of scores on the same 12 functions that constitute policy scope; in other words, for local authorities to reach high scores on EPD, they must also be assigned responsibilities for an extensive range of functions.

References

  • Baldersheim, H., & Wollmann, H. (2006). Assessment of the Field of Comparative Local Government and a Future Research Agenda. In H. Baldersheim & H. Wollmann (Eds.), The Comparative Study of Local Government and Politics. Overview and Synthesis (pp. 119–121). Farmington Hills: Barabara Budrich Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baldersheim, H., Illner, M., Offerdal, A., Rose, L., & Swianiewicz, P. (Eds.). (1996). Local Democracy and the Processes of Transformation in East-Central Europe. Boulder: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Coulson, A., & Campbell, A. (Eds.). (2008). Local Government in Central and Eastern Europe: The Rebirth of Local Democracy. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Denters, B., & Rose, L. (Eds.). (2005). Comparing Local Governance: Trends and Developments. Houndmills: Palgrave.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldsmith, M. (1992). Local Government. Urban Studies, 29(3/4), 393–410.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Goldsmith, M., & Page, E. (Eds.). (2010). Changing Government Relations in Europe. From Localism to Intergovernmentalism. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heinelt, H., & Hlepas, N. (2006). Typologies of Local Government Systems. In H. Bäck, H. Heinelt, & A. Magnier (Eds.), The European Mayor. Political Leaders in the Changing Context of Local Democracy (pp. 21–42). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heinelt, H., Hlepas, N., Kuhlmann, S., & Swianiewicz, P. (2018). Local Government Systems: Capturing the Institutional Setting in Which Mayors Have to Act. In H. Heinelt, A. Magnier, M. Cabria, & H. Reynaert (Eds.), Political Leaders and Changing Local Democracy. The European Mayor (in print). London: Palgrave.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hendriks, F. (2014). Understanding Good Urban Governance. Essentials, Shifts and Values. Urban Affairs Review, 50(4), 553–576.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hesse, J., & Sharpe, L. (1991). Local Government in International Perspective: Some Comparative Observations. In J. Hesse (Ed.), Local Government and Urban Affairs in International Perspective. Analyses of Twenty Western Industrialized Countries (pp. 603–621). Baden-Baden: Nomos-Verlagsgesellschaft.

    Google Scholar 

  • Illner, M. (2003). Devolution of Governments in the Ex-Communist Countries: Some Explanatory Frameworks. In H. Baldersheim, M. Illner, & H. Wollmann (Eds.), Local Democracy in Post-communist Europe (pp. 9–28). Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • John, P. (2001). Local Governance in Western Europe. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuhlmann, S., & Bouckaert, G. (Eds.). (2016). Local Public Sector Reforms in Times of Crisis. National Trajectories and International Comparisons. London: Palgrave.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lidström, A. (1998). The Comparative Study of Local Government Systems: A Research Agenda. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practive, 1(1), 97–115.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loughlin, J. (Ed.). (2004). Subnational Democracy in the European Union: Challenges and Opportunities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loughlin, J., Hendriks, F., & Lidström, A. (2010). Subnational Democracy in Europe: Changing Backgrounds and Theoretical Models. In J. Loughlin, F. Hendriks, & A. Lidström (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Local and Regional Democracy in Europe (pp. 1–23). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Page, E. (1991). Localism and Centralism in Europe. The Political and Legal Bases of Local Self-Government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Page, E., & Goldsmith, M. (Eds.). (1987). Central and Local Government Relations. A Comparative Analysis of West European Unitary States. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Page, E., & Goldsmith, M. (1987a). Centre and Locality: Functions, Access and Discretion. In E. Page & M. Goldsmith (Eds.), Central and Local Government Relations. A Comparative Analysis of West European Unitary States (pp. 3–11). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Page, E., & Goldsmith, M. (1987b). Centre and Locality: Explaining Cross-national Variation. In E. Page & M. Goldsmith (Eds.), Central and Local Government Relations. A Comparative Analysis of West European Unitary States (pp. 156–168). London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sellers, J. (2005). Re-Placing the Nation: An Agenda for Comparative Urban Politics. Urban Affairs Review, 40(4), 419–445.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sellers, J., & Lidström, A. (2007). Decentralization, Local Government, and the Welfare State. Governance: An international Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions, 20(4), 609–632.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Stoker, G. (2006). Comparative Local Governance. In R. Rhodes, S. Binder, & B. Rockman (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions (pp. 497–515). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Swianiewicz, P. (2014). An Empirical Typology of Local Government Systems in Eastern Europe. Local Government Studies, 40(2), 292–311.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wolman, H. (2008). Comparing Local Government Systems Across Countries: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges to Building a Field of Comparative Local Government Studies. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26, 87–103.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Ladner, A. et al. (2019). A New Typology of Local Government? Beyond North-South and East-West. In: Patterns of Local Autonomy in Europe. Governance and Public Management. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95642-8_10

Download citation