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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: February 2020

2 - Multilevel Democracy and the Modern State


In the contemporary world of nation states and globalizing forces, institutions and governance arrangements at the scale of cities and communities remain a persistent fact of political life. Systems of local government addressed to this scale are a near-universal feature of contemporary democracies. In older democracies they grow out of long-established traditions, and take the form of highly institutionalized instances for decision-making, policy implementation, and political participation (Page and Goldsmith, 1987, Hesse and Sharpe, 1991, Pierre, 1999, Vetter, 2007, Lidström, 2003). The reasons governance at the local scale has persisted go well beyond the case that Tocqueville made for local institutions. Since long before he wrote, the scale of communities and cities was regarded in Western political theory as the most critical site of linkages between society and the state. Contemporary democracies, along with other states, still rely systematically on local institutions. Democracy at the local and the national scale, and the continued efforts of nation states to shape society through policy, have compounded this reliance.