Bringing the Citizen Back In: Democratic Dimensions of Local Reforms in Germany and JapanReport as inadecuate

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East Asia

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 313–328

First Online: 26 August 2011Received: 16 April 2011Accepted: 08 August 2011


Since the 1990s, local governments in many countries have responded to the crisis of public finances, legitimacy, and a low level of performance with a combination of territorial and functional reforms, and the introduction of management and political reforms. This article focuses on the latter by analyzing new modes of citizen participation in Germany and Japan. It will employ theoretical assumptions from the local governance debate in order to explore the democratic dimensions of local government reforms. The question considered is concerned with the political context for new modes of participation and whether they can offer opportunities for an improvement of local democracy in terms of an increase in legitimacy and political capacity building for citizens. The conclusion will be reached that while we would expect more favorable preconditions in Germany with regard to a positive impact on local democracy, the opposite is the case: a relatively weak tradition of local autonomy and low resources of civil society actors in Japan explains their focus on co-production of services with local governments but at the same time offers greater opportunities for an improvement in local democracy.

KeywordsCitizen participation in Germany and Japan Civil society Local governance Local government reforms New Public Management The author wants to thank Anne Seidel for her helpful comments and support in translating the manuscript.

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Author: Gesine Foljanty-Jost



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