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From New Labour to the Big Society
Author: Hugh Atkinson

There is a widespread view that local democracy in Britain is in deep trouble and that people face a crisis of civic engagement and political participation. This book counterweighs the many negative accounts that seek to dominate the political discourse with talks on political apathy and selfish individualism. It commences with an examination of theoretical debates as to the meaning of local democracy and related concepts. The book looks at the policy agenda around local democracy in the context of the developing nature of central/local relations since 1979. It considers the available evidence on level of political participation and civic engagement by looking at eight themes. These include the state of formal politics, forms of civic engagement, community identity and the emerging world of the internet/world wide web. The book also looks at nine key aspects of the reform of local democracy over the last fifteen years, including local democracy and the New Labour reform agenda; the constitutional position of local government; and double devolution. It focuses on the so-called 'crisis of formal democracy' at the local level. The book ascertains the recent developments beyond the realm of elections, political parties and formal political institutions. It then concentrates on local services and policy attempts to widen public participation in the shaping and delivery of such services. Finally, the book discusses the concept of sustainability and regeneration strategies to build sustainable communities, both physical and social.

Open Access (free)
Geoffrey Wood

? In the early years of the century, formal democracy in many of the advanced societies was extremely shaky, or even non-existent. The rise of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s led many to conclude that democracy might be little more than a historical anomaly in visible decay, a perspective epitomized in the works of German novelist and social thinker, Erich Junger (1970). However, this was followed by fascism’s equally rapid demise (outside the relatively peripheral Iberian peninsula), the redemocratization of much of Western and Central Europe, and the triumph of

in Democratization through the looking-glass
Hugh Atkinson

4 Local democracy at the formal level Introduction This chapter will focus on the so-called ‘crisis of formal democracy’ at the local level. First, the decline of political parties in terms of membership, activism, resources and public regard will be considered. The factors in this decline will be analysed, together with possible solutions for a reinvigorated local party politics and the key role this might play in boosting civic engagement and democracy. Second, attention will be given to the perceived problem of declining electoral turnout at the local level

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Debates and evidence
Hugh Atkinson

less than 35 per cent. Such figures do not stand comparison with our European counterparts, where turnout is considerably higher. What factors, then, lie behind such apparent disengagement with the formal electoral process? Findings from the Power Inquiry are illuminating. Power took evidence from a wide range of organisations, groups and individuals. It concluded that the argument that the ‘British people’s failure to engage with formal democracy resulted from apathy, lack of interest or weak sense of civic duty did not, however, sit well with the evidence’ which

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Abstract only
Hugh Atkinson

some of the key policy initiatives, ideas and proposals to enhance local democracy that have come from central and local government, together with various policy think tanks and other interested parties. Chapter 4 focuses on the ‘crisis’ of formal democracy at the local level. This includes the ‘decline’ in the role of political parties and falling voter turnout at local elections. Possible solutions for a reinvigorated formal local politics are analysed. Chapter 5 looks at recent developments beyond the realm of elections, political parties and formal political

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Abstract only
Chris McInerney

the twenty-­first century is advocated. The final conceptual part of the social justice/public administration puzzle is added in Chapter 4 with an extended discussion on the role of civic engagement as a component of social justice. Again, this chapter highlights that a range of opinions and experiences exist on the issue of citizen participation and its importance or otherwise to the operation of democracy. So, for those who endorse a more limited form of representative, elitist or formal democracy, civic engagement may, at best, be a way to stimulate citizen

in Challenging times, challenging administration
Hugh Atkinson

will be analysed in Chapter 4 when I look at formal democracy. Direct democracy We can draw a distinction between indirect (or representative democracy) where we elect our representatives, such as members of parliament and local councillors, and more direct forms of democracy, such as referenda where specific questions are put to the electorate. Representative democracy has 8 Local democracy, civic engagement and community been the traditional model adopted in the UK but over recent years referenda and other forms of direct democracy, such as citizens’ panels and

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Hugh Atkinson

evidence that it received ‘confirmed that the majority of citizens are attracted by such direct mechanisms and that many are willing to engage with them’ (Power, 2006: 220). 100 Local democracy, civic engagement and community Local referenda Another mechanism employed by local councils to gauge public opinion that sits outside traditional representative formal democracy is the referendum. Unlike citizens’ panels, all locally registered voters can have a say in referenda. They are an example of the direct democracy that I looked at in Chapter 1. Unlike a number of

in Local democracy, civic engagement and community
Abstract only
Andrea Mariuzzo

Italy, became the backdrop for an indefinitely postponed revolution; this was for discussion in the latter pages of the party newspaper as an enduring and crucial objective that was not, however, immediately achievable. The innovative potential of ‘progressive democracy’ lost its sense of immediate relevance, and was replaced by a defence of the pillars of ‘formal democracy’, such as the centrality of parliament and the constitutional guarantees of legitimate opposition, against creeping ‘Fascism’ or ‘Christian Democrat totalitarianism’. The claim to fully represent

in Communism and anti-Communism in early Cold War Italy
Abstract only
Carina Gunnarson

‘civicness’ in southern Italy is the patronage system and the clientelism established by the Italian state during the postwar period.18 Another factor that has not been sufficiently considered in Putnam’s explanatory model is the presence of the Mafia. The effects of organised crime on democracy are often ignored in the literature on social capital, but of course central in the liter­ ature on southern Italy. Although southern Italy has enjoyed formal democracy, democratic practices have been undermined and distorted by the presence of the Mafia. In this context

in Cultural warfare and trust