6. Cities locked in democratic institutions

 The Quest for Good Governance in an Era of Networks

Colin Copus (De Montfort University, Leicester, ccopus@dmu.ac.uk)
Kristof Steyvers (Ghent University, kristof.steyvers@ugent.be)

In timely debates on urban politics, it is increasingly acknowledged that place-bound public decision-making should be conceived in terms of governance. Therein a variety of actors from different levels of government and sectors of society engage in pluricentric and functionally differentiated special purpose networks. Whereas a first generation of sholars has been concerned with defining this shift away from the ideal-typical urban government (as a direcly elected and territorially integrated multipurpose authority) and establishing its causes and contingent manifestations, a second one has started to probe into the democratic and functional consequences of this altering mode of urban policy and politics.

 In line with the general concern of ‘governance without government’, questions are formuated on the anchorage of place-relevant governance networks in urban democratic institutions. This track focuses on that compatibility of urban governance with government from a democracy-oriented perspective. The question which instruments and modes have been developed to reconcille both spheres of contemporary city polity and the extent to or the conditions under which these succeed or fail is of key empirical interest but also prominent in the quest for good governance central in the more normative governing-through-networks discussions.

More in particular, this track wishes to adress three subthemes at the nexus of the government-governance debate. First, we aims to explore if and how altering practices of public involvement through consultative, deliberative or directly democratic devices impact on representative institutions and proccesses in cities. Which ones avoid or advertize what kinds of participatory arrangements? How do they try to fit these with the the dynamics of represenative democracy? Is there a tension between government-driven initiatives and more activist movements and modes and how (if so) is it resolved?

Second, what is the role of urban political leadership in governance? How (if so) do leaders aim to influence and shape their local polities through networks? What processes and practices of representation and accountability develop from and to the urban democratic institutions in which they are implanted. What (if any) role do democratically elected politicians play in the meta-governance of place-pertinent networks?    

Third, we are interested in changes in the jurisdictional arrangements affecting the interplay between urban government and governance. How do (alterations in) territorial and/or functional structures embed processes of democratic public decision-making in cities? This pertains more specificially to city regions and metropolitan areas as arising functional realities often unmatched by administrative divisions. How (if so) are issues of re-scaling and re-organization tackled in different contexts along the lines of consolidation, intermunicpal cooperation, hosting arrangements or the redistribution of tasks, responsiblities and/or competences? With what effect for these combined authorities or their equivalents?

The track welcomes proposals within this general framework and the subsquently outlined subthemes. Comparatively oriented and empirically grounded work is particularly encouraged but we would also welcome pertinent country-specific and/or theoretical contributions. We aim for a mix of junior and senior researchers. We are open to all paradigms, substantial as well as methodological that fit the aims of EURA and this track specifically.