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Local government may be loosely defined as a public organization authorized to decide and

administer a limited range of public policies within a relatively small territory which is a
subdivision of a regional or national government. Local government is at the bottom of a
pyramid of governmental institutions, with the national government at the top and intermediate
governments (states, regions, provinces) occupying the middle range. Normally, local
government has general jurisdiction and is not confined to theperformance of one specific
function or service.
This simple definition obscures wide variations in local governmental systems and operational
patterns, and it should be supplemented by a system of classification for both description and
analysis. In the past, local governments have been classified largely in terms of their formal
structures. Thus, in the United States great stress was laid on the question of whether a local
government had a mayor with broad executive powers or a mayor who was little more than a
presiding officer of the city council (the strong versus the weak mayor plans); whether the
council members divided among themselves administrative responsibility for the several aspects
of local government (the commission plan); or whether the council employed a professional
excutive agent to administer the citys affairs and be accountable to the council (the city manager
plan). Similar emphasis was placed on form and structure by authors attempting cross-national
comparisons of local governmental systems. A perusal of the publications of the International
Union of Local Authorities (e.g.,The Structure of Local Governments. .. , Humes and Martin
1961) or of the contents of The Municipal Yearbook will indicate the dominant concern for
structure. The Yearbook, for example, provides details on the organization of local government,
but only in 1963 did it begin to provide data on local elections.
The formal structure of local government, important as it can be to the character of a system, is
not the only nor even the most significant determinant of the style of local government. The
quality and character of a local government are determined by a multiplicity of factorsfor
example, national and local traditions, customary deference patterns, political pressures, party
influence and discipline, bureaucratic professionalism, economic resource controls, and social
organization and beliefs. That a local government is located in a nation controlled by a
communist party may be an infinitely more important fact than the structural forms it has. That
an American city is located in the South, where Negroes occupy an inferior social position, may
explain far more about the local government than its structure. The existence of a huge economic

enterprise within a given municipality may be more determinative of the style and policies of a
local government than its organization. And, it might be added, this may be as true in a
totalitarian regime as in a democratic one.
There are hundreds of thousands of local governments in the world, and we lack sufficient
information about their operational characteristics to make completely confident generalizations
about the nature of local government or to isolate the most critical variables that shape it. In the
process of moving toward surer understanding of the phenomenon it is useful to pursue answers
to three basic questions about any local government. First, to what extent is there local selfgovernment? For example, do the people of the community have an opportunity to participate in
government through meaningful elections and to have access to public officials to express their
opinions by organized and individual activity? Second, to what extent does the municipality have
relative autonomy and discretionary authority to act? That is, is there a deconcentration of
authority from the central government to the locality with little or no local discretion, or is
there decentralization of authority with relative discretion to undertake programs on local
initiative and with relative freedom from strict supervision and restriction from the central
government? Third, is the local government a vital and significant force in the lives of the
people? Is the government an institution with the will and the authority to undertake activities
that deeply affect the lives of people, or is it so marginal an aspect of life that the citizenry is
scarcely aware that it exists?
To facilitate discussion of local government in terms of these broad questions, five broad
categories of local governmental systems may be postulated: (1) federal-decentralized, (2)
unitary-decentralized, (3) Napoleonic-prefect, (4)communist, and (5) postcolonial. The meaning
of each category will become clear in the discussion.

Federal-decentralized systems
Those federal systems which decentralize much authority to the regional governments that
compose the federation also tend to be the nations that allow the broadest range of discretionary
authority to local government. This is not true of all systems that are called federal, however, but
only of those with actual decentralization. The Soviet government is formally organized along
federal lines, but such decentralization of authority to the districts as exists occurs under strict
central government controls; it is made abundantly clear that the sub-units of the Soviet system

(the republics and their subdivisions) are in reality agents of the central government and the
Communist party. In federal systems with much decentralization (for example, Australia,
Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States) the degree of autonomy of local
government varies considerably from country to country, but in all cases a considerable degree of
local independence prevails.
This variation extends deeper than the countryby-country comparison, for there is often much
variation among individual states or provincial-regional governments as to the forms and
authority of local government. For example, the closeness of supervision by administrative
agencies of regional governments varies widely from fairly extensive reporting and oversight to
almost none, except in cases of flagrant corruption. Likewise, certain states in the United States
grant home rule to municipalities by statutory or state constitutional provisions that permit
municipalities to alter their forms of government at will and that grant local authority to make
all laws and ordinances relating to municipal concerns, or broadly the powers of local selfgovernment, while in other states the municipality has to appeal to the state legislature for
specific permission to undertake a particular program.
The idea of home rule as local independence is an ancient doctrine, but as a legal concept it
originated in the late nineteenth century when American state legislatures interfered, often
corruptly, with the functioning of local government. Gradually, home rule has extended, with
varying degrees of effectiveness, to most of the states. Home rule does not grant total autonomy
by any means, since legislatures through general law and the courts through interpretation still
restrain local government. Nevertheless, the concept contradicts the principle of municipal
inferiority that previously stood as a basic rule of law. In the late nineteenth century Judge John
F. Dillon stated the classic principle of the status of the local government by saying that
municipal corporations were completely creatures of the legislature which could control or even
destroy municipalities at will. In the famous Dillons Rule he stated:
It is a general and undisputed proposition of law that a municipal corporation possesses and can
exercise the following powers, and no others: First, those granted in express words; second,
thosenecessarily or fairly implied in or incident to the powers expressly granted; third, those
essential to the accomplishment of the declared objects and purposes of the corporationnot
simply convenient, but indispensable. Any fair, reasonable, substantial doubt concerning the

existence of power is resolved by the courts against the corporation, and the power is denied.
(Dillon [1872] 1911, vol.1, sec. 237)
American courts no longer follow Dillons Rule rigidly, although its fundamental precepts are
still frequently drawn upon even in home rule states, when local and state jurisdictions are in
conflict. Litigation and the threat of litigation are important restraints upon local independence.
In the United States all local legislative bodies and most chief executives are directly elected.
Local government organization varies enormously from the town meeting, where all registered
voters may participate in basic decision making, to the highly bureaucratized governments of
many large cities where mayors combat the inertia of professionalism and pluralistic stasis (see
Sayre & Kaufman I960; Dahl 1961; Banfield 1961). In some cities powerful political party
machines control decision making by the formal officeholders; in others business elites have
great power; in still others authority is widely dispersed to independent boards and commissions
which are relatively invisible to the voters and partially beyond the control of the council or the
mayor (for example, Los Angeles). Although it has commonly been thought that American small
communities are highly democratic in the sense that the public has easy access to and much
control over their representatives, research on local governmental operation suggests that this is
not necessarily true (see Vidich & Bensman 1958; Presthus 1964). For example, survey research
in American cities concerning the citizens subjective competence (that is, a persons belief
that he can exert significant influence upon his local government) indicated that two-thirds of the
respondents felt a high degree of confidence in their political effectiveness, but there was no
evidence of significant variation in terms of the size of the community from which the
respondent came. Indeed, insofar as there was a variation, it favored the larger as opposed to the
smallest cities (see Almond & Verba 1963, p. 235).
Swiss municipalities also have a wide area of local autonomy, although there are variations
among the Swiss cantons (states) in this respect. The German-speaking cantons usually permit
more discretion than do the Italian- and French-speaking ones. A high degree of local selfgovernment prevails, particularly in the rural communities; in nine out of ten communes the
municipal deliberative body is an assembly of all electors. In larger municipalities elective
councils are employed, and under certain conditions a referendum may be used to submit
questions to the vote of the people.

Other federal systems permit somewhat less local autonomy. In Australia, for example, local
actions are subject to review by the state governor and ordinances are effective only after their
approval by the governor, although there remains a general autonomy for the locality within the
limitations of its local charter and the supervision of the state departments of local government.
In Canada a considerable sphere of local autonomy exists, but not as much as traditionally
prevails in the United States or Switzerland. An illustration of this is found in the decision of the
provincial legislature of Ontario to form a new unit of metropolitan government in the Toronto
area in 1953. The premier of Ontario warned that the legislature would act if the local
communities failed to create some orderly method of coping with the problems of the
metropolitan area, and when no action followed the legislature created a new governmental unit
covering both the center city and its suburbs. While such action would be legally feasible in most
(although not all) states in the United States, American political traditions of local independence
make it nearly impossible to do this.
The local government system of the West German Federal Republic also has variations in local
powers and procedures among the provincial governments (Lander), yet the overall
independence of local governments is considerable. The degree of independence does not match
that in the United States or Switzerland, however. The burgomaster (roughly equivalent to a
mayor) is a professional administrator and occupies a very strong position in the local
government; significantly, he is not only a local official but a federal and state official as well,
since the city performs certain functions for the higher jurisdictions. The -supervision of local
government from higher echelons is also fairly rigorous, and this has increased as the practice of
the states delegating certain functions for local performance has grown. It is perhaps suggestive
of the representativeness of German local government that a far higher proportion of German
respondents to an opinion survey indicated that they believed they could do something about an
unjust local law or regulation than those who felt any competence to correct an unjust national
law (Almond & Verba 1963, p.185).
The vitality of local government in the federal-decentralized countries varies both within and
among countries. In the United States the role of local government expanded greatly with the
maturation of industrial society in the first half of the twentieth century; protective, regulatory,
welfare, planning, economic promotion, cultural, and other activities were initiated or expanded.
But the extent of expansion varies greatly with the size of the city, the area of the country, and
even for adjacent cities. In the largest cities, where the functional expansion has been greatest,

the hugeness and impersonal nature of the government probably make government appear to
impinge less on the lives of the citizens than it does in fact. In smaller rural or suburban
communities, local government ranges from the moribund to the fairly vital. Like-wise in other
nations the degree of vitality and impact of government varies widely. In the Swiss communities
where a town-meeting style of government prevails, the sense of involvement and the level of
participation are high. The English-speaking Commonwealth federal systems appear to have a
range of variation in the vitality of local government that compares generally with that in the
United States.[see Federalism.]

Unitarydecentralized systems
Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries are examples of nations with unitary (that is, nonfederal) governments which have a considerable degree of decentralization of autonomous power
to localities. Although in all cases there is supervision by the central government, and although
localities can take only such actions as authorized by the central government, local governments
in these nations do have fairly wide responsibilities and make independent decisions about them.
The independent status of the English city has a long history, as evidenced by ancient royal
charters of cities. The first charters were just agreements by the king to recognize certain
concessions that local leaders had bought or bargained for, but in time the charters became
regularized and the basis of a considerable area of local discretion. As early as the fifteenth
century merchant guilds and borough councils originated the rudiments of local self-government.
Parliament remains the supreme source of local authority, but the practice of permitting local
prerogatives is so firmly established that curtailment is always resisted and comes only after
great deliberation. Nevertheless, there has been a considerable diminution of local independence
since the nineteenth century. Although the functions of the municipality have in some respects
been enlarged with the coming of new problems and public policies to meet them (for example,
public housing), an extension of the central governments concern for formerly purely local
matters has taken place simultaneously. Particularly in the fields where the central government
has provided a percentage of the cost of programs through grants-in-aid, central government
departments have greatly extended their control over local decisions. Centrally established
minimum standards of performance have unquestionably raised the efficiency of local
government, but at the same time they have curtailed the independence that once existed.

British local government is representative self-government. The local council is directly elected,
although the local executive is not. The mayor (or chairman in certain local bodies) is chosen
from among the council members, but he is not the chief executive in the same way that an
American mayor is. The British mayor is more a ceremonial and presiding official than an active
executive leader, and to the extent that he is the latter it is the result of his personal qualities or
his political position. The major operating element of the British local council is the committee
system, into which noncouncil members are co-opted as experts on aspects of policy covered by
the particular committee. Although the council must ratify all committee actions before they are
valid, the committees are the active elements in the process rather than the council as a whole.
The town (or county) clerk also plays a significant role in local government in his relationship to
the committees. It is he who prepares information for the committee and sets the agenda, but he
is not a British parallel to the American city manager, for he is not directly given the function of
overseeing administration. Traditionally clerks are not trained in administrative management but
in the law, although their apprenticeship in local government necessarily emphasizes
administrative matters, and as the problems of local government become more complex it
increasingly falls to the clerk to provide expertise and to coordinate the diverse elements of local
Since the early nineteenth century local governments in the Scandinavian nations have been
allowed a fair degree of autonomy. The list of powers for local government is extensive, and
while regional appointees of the central government who are in some respects similar to the
French prefect oversee local operations, the actual supervision is not strict and does not compare
with that in nations with prefectoral systems. In Norway all actions involving expenditures must
be cleared with the provincial governor before they can be carried out, which on the surface
suggests that Norwegian local government may be less autonomous than that of Britain. In fact,
however, Norwegian municipalities have somewhat more discretion, since the supervision is not
strict. Norwegian local government is vital, has broad scope, and is a very important aspect of
the nations political-governmental system. Local government is a common recruiting ground for
higher political office, and local forms and practices have been used as modes for creating
regional institutions and practices. Denmark also has close supervision of fiscal matters, but the
check on local government that this might imply is not apparently onerous. Local government is
democratic, has a fairly wide range of discretion, but is somewhat less autonomous and vital than
Norwegian local government. In Sweden local government activities are divided between those
that are free of super-vision, except on legal challenge, and those that are regulated.

Generally speaking, the free functions are those concerned with municipally provided utilities
and cultural-recreational activities, whereas the regulated ones include a long list of functions
extending from welfare services to town plan- ning, local courts, and school administration. As
in Norway and England there is extensive use of committees of the council for conduct of
business. Finlands local governments have somewhat less discretionary authority and are subject
to closer supervision, but the general pattern appears to be not markedly different from that in
other Scandinavian nations.[seeParliamentary government.

Napoleonic-prefect systems
The peculiarity of this style of local government is that the central government places in subregions of the nation an agent of the national government to oversee, and if necessary to countermand, suspend, or replace local governments. The system is a direct survivor of the ancient
institutions by which France attempted to create a centralized nation out of a scattered system of
feudal fiefs, small cities, and ecclesiastical domains. The office of intendant,conceived by
Richelieu in the early seventeenth century, was a means of extending the kings authority into the
hinterland, where the thirty intendants were known as the thirty tyrants. Animosity toward the
office resulted in its dissolution in the French Revolution, but Napoleon restored it as the office
of prefect, and it still flourishes in France today. In varying forms the office is commonly found
in southern Europe and in Latin America, just as British forms are found in English-speaking
In France the basic unit of local government is the commune, of which there are some 38,000,
and each is under the supervision of a prefect of a departement (of which there are 90) or under
the intermediate control of a subprefect of an arrondissement (more than 300). (In some areas
superprefects also provide regional supervision.) The commune is typically a small community,
since most of France is rural, although cities are also organized as communes. There is a high
degree of local interest in commune politics, and council elections are often heatedly contested.
The mayor, who is chosen from the ranks of the council, has a wide range of executive authority;
and although he is legally accountable to the council, he nevertheless is a powerful political force
in the municipality. Initiative in fiscal matters and other policy issues is in the mayors hands.
The mayor and the council operate under the eye of the prefect or subprefect, however; and all
commune actions are subject to review by the prefect, who may refuse to approve or may even
dissolve the local council or remove the mayor. There are, on the average, some three hundred

dissolutions per year, although a major cause of this is irreconcilable disagreement within the
council rather than conflict with the prefect.
It should not be assumed, however, that French local government is actually controlled from
Paris. Prefects and subprefects have a considerable area of discretion, and they often find it wise
to strike a political balance between themselves and the mayors, who are not entirely without
weapons to deploy against a demanding prefect, for national political forces are often just barely
beneath the surface of local politics. Many mayors are influential national political figures, and
local politics is a common basis for a political career. Despite this countervailing force against
centralization, local government in France remains far more subordinate and dependent than in
such countries as the United States and England. Police and education, for example, are largely
beyond local control; fiscal controls and subventions are deployed by prefects to bring commune
policy in line. Interest and participation, however, run high in France. A British observer,
granting that in England local government had more autonomy than it does in France,
nevertheless found in France more interest in local matters and more vitality in local government
(Chapman 1953, p. 221).
In other Mediterranean countries and in Latin America, where the prefectoral system prevails,
there are many variations on the French pattern. In Spain and Italy, for example, there is
considerably more centralization than in France. In Spain central government controls are
rigorously applied to the more than nine thousand municipalities; the mayor is appointed by the
central government, and he is the strongest force in local affairs. Portugal has a similar system of
central control. In Italy the prefectoral system was a convenient device for extending the powers
of the fascist system into the hinterland, and interestingly one of the consequences of the fascist
interlude is that the prefect has greater power today than in the prefascist era (Fried 1963, p.
261). Local councils are popularly elected, but the mayor and the councils are well aware of the
power of the prefect, who uses his position not only to provide general administrative
supervision but to pursue political objectives as well such as the curbing of the power of
communists when they take over a local government. In rural areas particularly, local
government is not a vital or popular institution; it is often considered by the people to be an
element of nature to be endured like drought or diseasenot something from which benefits
are likely to be derived.

In Latin America extensive supervision of local government by officials similar to the prefect is
common. In some countries the local mayor is appointed by the central government, and in
others he is elected, but his actions and those of locally elective councils are subjected to
extremely close control by the central government. Brazil, with its federal system, does not
conform to this, however, and it has relatively little central or state government oversight of the
details of local government operations. An essentially prefectoral system is also used in Japan,
where, significantly, a large measure of the authority of the supervising administrator lies in his
discretionary authority to grant subsidies to local government.

Communist systems
The local governmental systems of communist nations are, in general, examples of
deconcentratiori of authority rather than decentralization. That is, the local governmental unit is
an agency of the central government, and it functions as an integral element of the hierarchical
administrative system of the state. The area of local independence is narrow and extends only to
minor matters, whereas control devices are extensive and are rigorously applied. Local officials
are well aware that their decisions must conform to an overall design of higher authorities, and
they know, too, that to divert budget funds to other purposes without permission may mean
dismissal or even imprisonment. These systems are unique in that local governments are given a
role in economic activities infinitely more extensive than in capitalist nations. Finally the
discipline of the Communist party is a means of controlling policy in detail. As a supplement to
and a check on the administrative system, the Communist party with its rigid discipline controls
the key positions in government. Indeed, the Communist partys roleis remarkably similar to that
of the classic American local government party machine. Where a classic American machine
acquired complete control, the formal distribution of authority was unimportant; what mattered
was the internal discipline of the party through which decisions were made from the top to the
bottom of the government (McKean 1940). The critical difference between the two situations is
that the American boss system depends upon local insularity to maintain control, whereas the
communist system utilizes the local party to carry out the program of the national party leaders.
Local government in the Soviet Union is subject to very intensive control, but the minute and
stifling controls of the Stalin era are no longer used. The ponderous apparatus needed for detailed
Supervision of local operations from Moscow became so expensive and inefficient that in the
1950s efforts were made to decentralize to a limited extent. In the 1930s the rigidity of controls

was such that a local bakerys request for a supplemental flour allotment was passed to higher
and higher authority until it finally reached the desk of the premier, and he approved the request
himself (Granick 1960, p. 162). Documents captured by the Germans in 1941, in the town of
Smolensk, also reveal the manner in which the party was used to assert tight control by Moscow
over local operations (Fainsod 1958).
The decentralizing tendencies of the 1950s and 1960s did not necessarily increase the degree of
local self-government. As before, the locality elects large local Soviets in which there is much
discussion of local affairs, but apparently the decision-making power remains with the executive
committee of the soviet rather than with the soviet members themselves. Local leaders are,
however, permitted a wider range of discretion for which ultimately they are held responsible to
their superiors. Evidence that the new policies did not involve a total change is the story
in Pravda following the departure of Khrushchev from power. Khrushchev favored reinforced
concrete blocks over bricks for construction and, as word of his attitude filtered down the
hierarchy, local managers shut down brickworks regardless of local demand. Khrushchevs
successors promised in Pravda to grant to local Soviets power to decide all local issues; if this
becomes a reality it will involve an enormous change in the traditional balance of political power
in the U.S.S.R.[see COMMUNISM,article on SOVIET COMMUNISM.]
The Chinese commune is a striking experiment in devising local institutions to serve the
purposes of a dedicated communist regime. The communes are at once instruments of economic
planning, educational and cultural activity, and governmental control. In order to increase
manpower, women are freed from child care and household work through provision of nurseries,
common eating facilities, and service centers for clothing repair and other household chores.
Millions of Chinese eat in public mess halls in both agricultural and urban communes. Local
marginal industries are organized and operated by the commune. It is claimed that more than 500
million Chinese were in communes in 1960, but this probably includes many paper
organizations. Nevertheless, the commune is potentially an impressive device in its totality of
involvement of the citizens life, the opportunities it offers for political control through
propaganda, police, and tight party discipline, and its potential for economic production where
man power so greatly exceeds all other forms of capital. It is an attempt to resolve Chinas ageold problem of balancing local initiative and central controlthis time consistent with the
requirements of an industrial revolution under rigid totalitarian control.

Yugoslavia offers a significantly different kind of communist local governmental system.

Although the party and its discipline remain an important control factor, it is evident that a great
degree of decentralization has been introduced. The Yugoslav commune has a bicameral council,
one house being a political body elected by area and the other concerned with economic matters
and representative of workers and farmers in their respective work units. The economic chamber
is somewhat less powerful than the political one, since it acts on a more restricted range of
issues; but on all basic economic questions, including the budget, the two chambers must agree.
The central government has basic responsibility for the economic growth of the nation, and it
grants funds for economic investment; yet the locality has some discretion about the form of
development it desires and relative independence in the conduct of local enterprises once
established. The municipal council sets basic standards of operation for all municipal economic
organizations, and it appoints their managers; but the workers in the enterprises and their elected
representatives have control over some aspects of operations. In addition to the workers councils,
numerous other elected bodies deal with a broad range of subjects from education to social
security. Periodic meetings of all voters who wish to participate allow for discussion of current
questions, and under certain circumstances a referendum is possible, although it has been little
used. In comparison with other communist systems, Yugoslavia has a high degree of
decentralization and vitality. Local discretion and self government are, however, circumscribed
by the existence of the party as a guide for local action. Yugoslavian leaders stress the
importance of local self-government but at the same time emphasize the importance of the
Leninist principle of democratic centralism, which holds that minority views should give way
to strict party discipline when basic decisions have been made. [see COMMUNISM,article

Postcolonial systems
The creation of new nations from former colonies involves varying degrees of change in local
government. In some cases the imposition of a strong single-party political system subverts old
patterns almost entirely; in others, where adjustment more than revolutionary change has been
the theme, local government patterns have not altered drastically. The legacy of colonialism is
omnipresent, however much the new leaders strive for complete breaks with the colonial
past[see COLONIALISM]. The pre-existing systems of local government, closely supervised by
colonial officials and native subordinate administrators, have often remained as the general

pattern of local-central government relationships. The terminology and basic structures of the
colonial local government system frequently persist for reasons of habituation and convenience,
if no other. Some leaders of postcolonial nations do not have a simple alternative of returning to
a precolonial local governmentsystem, both because the colonial powers undermined or
abolished the old ways and because the old systems were incapable of dealing with the
conditions of Westernized and modernized life. The original tribal and village systems or
bureaucratized empires of the past were appropriate to a rural, self-sufficient, and isolated kind
of social life or to conditions of minimal central control; but as these nations become urbanized
and begin to develop integrated economies, the simple forms of the past are inappropriate.
Although some of the ancient forms of tribal ruler ship were allowed to continue by some
colonial powers, it was apparent to local residents that the real authority rested not with the
traditional chiefs and elders councils but with the administrators, both native and colonial, who
supervised local operations. Not the least important of the remnants of colonialism, then, is the
simple continuance of the great authority of the outside supervisor; the creation of active local
democracy is difficult under any circumstances but the more so when habits of central
supervision are generations old.
Local government in these nations is beset by staggering social and economic problems. In the
first place, many of the cities of Asia and Africa are not cities in the European sense; they lack
the technology, organization, resources, and slowly developed institutions of the Western city and
are often massive accumulations of squatters. Also, as new regimes the central governments tend
to be politically unstable. Extraordinary poverty, severe difficulties associated with economic
growth, and chronic overcrowding in the cities all produce a range of problems not faced in more
modernized nations. For example, many Indian cities face a serious problem in dealing with the
tens of thousands who perforce must sleep in the streets at night, and a common problem of the
local Indian city corporation is the prevalence of beggars who are organized into self-protective
groups to defend their rights. Interestingly, in certain African cities the analogue of the American
boss system seems to have developed, where local politicians cater to ethnic minorities and
attempt to provide assistance to the city newcomers in exchange for voting support. Remoteness
of local communities where transportation is difficult means that many parts of the postcolonial
nations have a high degree of local independence through defaultthe central government being
unable to assert its potential authority. A few Near Eastern nations have suffered for long periods
from a breakdown in local and national bureaucracy so that local services are not rendered and a
semianarchic confusion prevails.

Although modernization is gradually prevailing over traditionalism throughout the postcolonial

world, conflict between modernists and traditionalists is endemic[see MODERNIZATION].
Tradition in religion and in social organization is the enemy of rational bureaucratization and the
extension of power by the new political parties of the developing nations; it is a battle between
an old man in a gilded chair (the tribal chieftain) and a young man in a swivel chair (Cowan
1958, p. vi). The virtual elimination of the tribal chief as a man of authority, as in Ghana, is one
pattern; whereas the retention of chiefs as significant factors, as in parts of Uganda, is another
(Burke 1964). Where political parties are extremely powerful, for example, in Tunisia and
Ghana, the forces of traditionalism have been hardest hitalthough traditional forms have a way
of surviving, partly because they tend to rest on kinship relations that are basic elements of the
social fabric. In Morocco, for example, orders from the central government to establish local
councils to direct local affairs meant that a few dominant families selected their leaders as the
new ruling body. Likewise, commands by the Israeli government to resident Arab communities
to create local governing councils produced a council of family elders based on kinship patterns.
There is much conscious effort in the postcolonial nations to improve the quality of local
government performance, but much of this involves assertion of controls from above to get local
action. In Pakistan, for example, the central government in its Basic Democracies Order of 1959
established a system of local government for all of Pakistan and, outwardly at least, encouraged
the growth of local democracy. Yet the control of local operations by the central government is
very close, and one observer has found that in a given area no less than 85 per cent of all issues
on local council agendas were put there by communications from the central government
(Rahman 1962, p. 31). Inevitably the patterns of local governmental development in the
postcolonial societies differ greatly, but the needs for economic growth and the extension of new
national power to the hinterlands and in the rapidly growing cities have the tendency to produce
as much central control as the regime finds possible. As a general rule the patterns are more like
those of Richelieus France than of Jeffersons United States.

The role of local government

Paradoxically, local government in the twentieth century seems to expand the number of
functions it performs at the same time that it faces increasing central government supervision and
a narrowing of its independence. As the problems of large and complicated cities and
metropolitan areas grow, at least to the extent that financial means to cope with the problems

exist, the city has greatly extended its role. Cultural activities expand simultaneously with
programs on housing, redevelopment, air pollution control, and the recruitment of business
enterprises. Many of the most dramatic and important of these functions are financed in good
part by grants-in-aid from higher level governments, thereby decreasing local discretion at least
to some extent. Also the expansion occurs simultaneously with a narrowing of distances between
the central government and the municipality as the means of communication develop and as
areas once isolated economically and politically become an integral part of a national economy
and political system. It is therefore sometimes difficult to say whether local governments in a
particular nation are now more or less significant agencies of government than they were in a
simpler age.
In the case of the smaller communities there is not much doubt that increasing centralization has
affected their range of discretion negatively. although the capacity of a central government to
control tends to dwindle with distance for the simple reason that remoteness prevents control, the
growth of rapid communication tends to undercut this source of independence. Likewise, smaller
communities caught up in the sprawl of metropolitan growth suddenly cease to be independent
units and become entangled in the complications of overall metropolitan areas. This leads to the
development of regional institutions that in some degree may supplant or at least supplement
local government, and it also tends to force local officials into governing in part through
negotiation with officials from higher levels of government and with those of neighboring
municipalities (Wood & Almendinger 1961).
Finally, it is important to note that the role of the municipal executive has grown greatly in the
present century, owing to the same forces that have heightened the role of the executive in
national government. The technological complexity of the problems being dealt with increases
the power of the bureaucracy; and the diversity and diffusion of modern life also tend to lead to a
stronger executive since, especially in larger cities, the chief executive seems to be the only
functionary capable of controlling the bureaucracy, focusing public attention on key issues, and
pressuring the various actors on the city scene to respond to the challenges a city faces.