MA-seminar: Decentralisation, Local Democracy, and Social Justice – European and Global Perspectives (yearly since 2014)

In the first global report on decentralization and local democracy published by the UCLG and the World Bank (2009), the authors insist that “[w]hile many of the problems facing cities and towns may be global, the solutions will, in large measure, be local and unique to the specific circumstances on the ground”. The goal of this MA-seminar is to understand and scrutinize the real-world relevance of this commonplace statement.

In the seminar, we will read and discuss current academic research on the topic. First, conceptual issues will be addressed: What is decentralisation and local democracy? What are the characteristics of decentralized political systems? What do strong local democracies look like? What forms of decentralization and local democracy do we find in Europe and beyond?

Second, we want to understand the conditions for successful decentralization and local democracy: Why do some countries decentralize while in others the central-state remains dominant? Are there common patterns of decentralization? What are the challenges faced by developing countries with regard to local democracy?

Third, we will discuss the prospects of decentralization and local democratization for achieving social justice: Which forms of decentralized democracy do actually succeed in empowering otherwise marginalized population groups? Under which conditions?

Syllabus (pdf).