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.
activists. In this chapter, that experience is shown to be
one of a politics of silencing in which attempts to articulate grievances are met
with accusations of racism and respondents learn to ‘keep your mouth shut’. This
constraint on political space compounds a wider disengagement from the formalpolitical sphere and a denial of the ‘political’ nature of activism. Such disengagement, it is argued here, is not rooted in a traditional far right, anti-democratic ideology, however, but in an experientially based scepticism about the functioning
of contemporary formal
in the subsequent chapters. Chapter 2 analyses the widespread view that we face a crisis of local
democracy with such evidence as low electoral turnout and declining
membership of political parties. However, this chapter will argue that a
more nuanced analysis of the available evidence points to a much complex
picture with a wide variety of both informal and formalpolitical activity
taking place. Chapter 3 looks at the policy agenda around local democracy
in the context of the developing nature of central/local relations since 1979.
It provides a broad survey of
thoughtful analysis of the available evidence points to a
much more nuanced and complex political terrain, with a wide variety of
both informal and formalpolitical activity. Democracy at the local level does
face real challenges but there are rich seams to be mined and real opportunities to be grasped.
Robert Putnam’s study of the USA provides an interesting comparative
perspective. Putnam concludes that over the last forty years the country has
witnessed a marked decline in civic engagement and notions of community.
He talks of ‘the complex factors that lie behind the
. Working for democratization is about finding
out the truth of politics under capitalism, and seeking to
eliminate formalpolitics altogether (Lefebvre 1966: 138).
Thus, while Marx saw the modern capitalist state as more
advanced than any previous form of state, it remained
imperfect and must be done away with. To Marx, as long
as the fundamentals of capitalism remained in place, any
apparent element of pluralism in the capitalist state was of
Finally, classical social theorists such as Max Weber and
Emile Durkheim locate democratization in terms of the
the possible. More broadly, we can
understand politics as being about conflicts between groups and the resolution of these conflicts. As Hague and Harrop note, it is ‘the process by which
groups make collective decisions’ (Hague and Harrop, 1987: 3). Groups can
range from formalpolitical institutions such as cabinet, parliament and
political parties through to local tenants’ groups and voluntary organisations. Political decisions can be determined in a variety of ways. These can
include diplomacy, negotiation, voting and, in extreme cases, violence.
What makes such
data collected shows that women continue to be underrepresented in relation
to elected political office, appointments to public bodies, and in the judiciary.
Historically, the invisibility of women within Northern Ireland’s formalpolitical arena is striking. During the period of Home Rule (1921–69), political
structures were ethnically discriminatory in favour of Protestant unionists,
while also being gender exclusive. In the twelve elections to Stormont between
1921 and 1969, only thirty-seven of the 1008 candidates were women.45
Only one of these women ever
which intensified in Northern Ireland in the second half of the
twentieth century. The significance of the voluntary and community
sector in policy-making is connected to sectarianism in local formalpolitics, the ‘democratic deficits’ of direct rule by
Westminster and the conditions for receipt of funding from the
European Union (EU). In the 1990s, women’s groups were
public scrutiny. The first examines parades using Labour Day as the
focus for a broader discussion of the sound of marching feet. The second
considers the place of music in the formalpolitical world of
electioneering. Our point of entry into the public sphere of
music-making by radicals and reformers is to rejoin the parade about to
set off down Marshall Street under the burning sun in Cobar.
own personal claims. Their first act has been to declare war on
alcohol … In New Zealand … feminine direct influence has had excellent
results in the cause of temperance.’26 Thus, the SWLF could argue that
women’s enfranchisement was not sought out of self-interest, but rather
as a means of empowering supposed feminine moral superiority with a
This perception of the New Zealand women’s vote as purifying
was reinforced by individual women’s testimonies. Mrs Helen Barton, a
member of the SWLF from 1900 and connected with the Glasgow Prayer