Representation, Citizenship and the Public Domain: Framing the Local Democracy Effects of Institutional Choice and Recognition

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"This article frames the analysis of the democratizing effects of 'democratic decentralization' reforms and projects. Many developing countries have launched decentralization reforms to establish and democratize local government for the purpose of improving service delivery, local development and management and to ensure a shift from a simple 'needs- based' towards a 'rights-based' approach to natural resource management, whereby the local communities themselves have a voice in managing local resources. Rather than empowering local government in the name of democracy itself, however, governments, international development agencies and other organizations are transferring power to a wide range of local institutions including private bodies, customary authorities and NGOs. Recognition of these other local institutions means that fledgling local governments are receiving few public powers and face competition for legitimacy. Despite a long history of attempts at integrated rural development, initial studies show that this new trend, with its plurality of approaches and local interlocutors, can result in fragmented forms of authority and of belonging, dampening long-run prospects for local democratic consolidation. We do not yet know under what conditions current patterns of local institutional choice result in fragmentation or consolidation. This article (when it is done) will draw on comparative data from natural resource decentralization cases around the world to explore the effects of institutional choice on the formation and consolidation of democratic local government. The article will focus on how to analyze the effects of institutional choices by governments, international development agencies and other organizations on three dimensions of democracy: 1) representation, 2)citizenship, and 3) the public domain. This preliminary draft establishes the theoretical basis for a framework for the analysis of the democracy effects of choice and recognition."
IASC, democracy--theory, political theory, state and local governance, institutional economics