Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 March 2014
The literature on Public Utilities has increasingly shown that the adoption of corporate governance tools for the management of public services in local policy-making has given rise to a considerable reshaping of political strategies and practices. Corporatisation should be understood as not merely a policy instrument, but also as a new opportunity for local politicians to adjust their preferences, to deal with various interests, and to build unusual coalitions. Corporatisation may (and does) influence the concrete operation of local political systems. Today, the boards of municipal enterprises, as well as the public–private partnerships stemming from this emerging tendency towards corporatisation, can be conceived as both actors of local policy-making and arenas in which a number of functions traditionally associated with the mechanisms of electoral representation are performed: inter- and intra-party bargaining, recruitment of élites, and negotiation with local and ‘external’ stakeholders. The paper illustrates the impact of corporatisation on local representation mechanisms in Italy, considering its opaque side with specific reference to the problem of democratic accountability and control, and the creation of new local oligarchies. Empirical evidence is provided from research on municipal enterprises in six different Italian regions. Statistical data on companies (amount of social capital, fields of activity, private and public shareholders, etc.), as well as qualitative data, are analysed in order to show how corporatisation has provided local actors with unusual (and often non-transparent) channels of political representation and public–private bargaining.
This article is the product of tight collaboration among the three authors. However, for the sole purpose of administrative attribution of authorship, we specify that Andrea Lippi wrote paragraphs 1 and 4, Giulio Citroni wrote paragraph 3, and Stefania Profeti wrote paragraphs 2 and 5. Conclusions were written together by the three authors.