Local Governments in the United States

Jisun Youm and Richard Feiock

in Political Science

ISBN: 9780199756223
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Local Governments in the United States

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The study of local governments has a long tradition in political science and has provided a laboratory for testing the many theories developed elsewhere as well as theories specific to the politics and operation of local governments. Formal institutions (rules and laws) and informal institutions (relational networks and conventions) are at the core of local governance and any understanding of how and why local governments do what they do must include the constraints and incentives derived from institutions. The institutional perspective has played only a minor role in the behavioral and class-conflict scholarship that dominated the late 20th century, but institutions have come to play a key role in the contemporary study of urban politics as in the discipline more generally. Forms of local government are numerous and include cities, counties, and a wide array of special districts in the United States. Their formation and institutional structures can be traced to the founding of the Progressive reform movement. Cities are similar to other governments in that they are venues for political interaction of interests groups, legislators, and executive officials. By contrast, they are unique in their number, geographic scale, and intergovernmental position. This places local governments in competition with each other for residents and development. In this environment, local government institutions play a central role in mediating competing constituency demands, the ambitions of local government officials, and the incentives and constraints of intergovernmental competition in a political market. Thus, this literature can make important contributions to understanding politics at every level.

Article.  8650 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions ; Political Methodology ; Political Theory

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