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Multilevel Democracy
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Book description

This volume presents the first systematic comparative analysis of national traditions of local democracy across the developed world, as well as their origins and evolution. It reveals how inclusive local institutions that integrate national and local governance make democracy work better. Across most of the developed world, early forms of the national state entrenched the local power of elites. In Anglo-American and Swiss democracies, state formation imposed enduring tensions with local civic governance. In contrast, inclusive, integrative local institutions in Northern Europe enabled close links with central government around common local and national agendas, producing better governance and fuller democracy to the present day. Through comparative analysis, the authors demonstrate how institutions for local governance and the participation of civil society differ widely among developed democracies, and how local democracy relates to national democracy. The resulting insights fundamentally recast our understanding of how to build and maintain more effective democracies.


‘This book restores local democracy to its rightful place at the center of our understanding of national politics. Through an illuminating, comparative historical analysis, the authors show that systematic variations in local political incorporation have laid down enduring differences in the character of multilevel democracy, with far-reaching consequences for policymaking and the quality of democracy. A must-read!'

Christopher Ansell - University of California, Berkeley

‘Local governments are often overlooked in discussions on the formation of modern democracies. This insightful and carefully researched book shows why they should not be: local institutional incorporation in the nation state is historically meaningful for democracies.'

Merilee S. Grindle - Harvard University, Massachusetts

‘Multilevel Democracy offers an original and fascinating account of institutional endurance and change. The authors' analyses challenges our understanding of state formation, political mobilization, and institutions. Perhaps most importantly, they show the role of local democracy and institutions in developing democratic states, and the significance of ‘vertical circuits of power and influence' between institutions at different levels of the polity in shaping and sustaining democracy. If Acemoglu and Robinson, in their seminal work, showed the importance of good institutions for economic growth, Sellers, Lidström and Bae show a similar pattern for the development of democracy and governance. This book should be required readings for all students of democracy, institutions and governance.'

Jon Pierre - Göteborgs Universitet, Sweden

‘A breakthrough book in comparative urban analysis! Following in the tradition of Tocqueville, the trio of Sellers, Lidstrom, and Bae provide a multi-national treatment of how state and civil society are interwoven with local-national relations. Resisting the temptation to retreat into vague abstractions about multiscalar politics, the authors use a much-needed comparative approach that grounds their work in examinations of cross-national experiences. During an era in which democratic advancement faces numerous obstacles, Multilevel Democracy offers lessons that can be applied in a time of great challenges. By emphasizing the important role of civil society, this book moves scholarship beyond a limited political-economy conception into a framework that is more accommodating to the vital part that civil society plays in shaping governance in today's world.'

Clarence N. Stone - George Washington University, Washington DC

‘... Multilevel Democracy offers a significant contribution to the broad field of comparative political science and is a must-read for a wide range of political scientists ...’

Arjan H. Schakel Source: Comparative Politics

‘… an impressive body of research literature and masses of quantitative data … it is probably primarily of interest for researchers of public administration, but the parts about ‘civil society’ will raise the interest of Voluntas readers. The authors describe interesting fits between governance infrastructures on the one hand and the political and civic organizations on the other. The book has a broad scope: a wide variety of sources and literature from public administration, political science, history, economy, and civil society studies. It is more about being careful with the heritage than about building democracy from scratch.'

Paul Dekker Source: Voluntas

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