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Local government and civil society in a post-socialist Polish city: a case study of Poznań

Mausch-Dębowska, Olga J. (2011) Local government and civil society in a post-socialist Polish city: a case study of Poznań. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Between 1989 and 2007, Poland went through numerous reforms, the aim of which was to build a democratic country based on the rule of law. At the core of the multiple transition from the communist state to democracy was devolution which has been translated at different scales, national, regional and local. Of central importance were the local government reforms. Analyses of local outcomes of democratisation need to include the difficult to measure effects which manifest themselves through activities of local authorities and local communities. The aim of this thesis is to help fill the gap in understanding the processes and outcomes of the democratic transition by investigating the functioning of democracy at the local level, focusing on local self-government and its relations with civil society in the context of democratic consolidation in one of the major cities in Poland – Poznań and two of its community-based self-governing bodies called Estates which are accessory sub-local government units. The main question of this thesis is what is democratic about Poznań’s local government today. Here, the functioning of local representative democracy and citizens’ inclusion in local decision making are key. It is argued that in a ‘healthy’ democracy the actual practices of local authorities should facilitate an increasing involvement of local residents in decision-making processes. Consequently I focused on local democratic practices trying to evaluate local government’s responsiveness, effectiveness and accountability. In the light of the prevailing opinion that civil society in CEE has been weak, the effectiveness and efficiency of civil society in Poznań and its relations with the local authorities were explored. The study was based on a combination of qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (questionnaires) methods of research. The research identifies that the activities of the local government of Poznań are symptomatic of the authorities’ recognition of the need to be responsive, effective and accountable. Poznań’s authorities have partners in civil society. Among these partners are organisations with a low level of formality, i.e. a community, neighbourhood and a group of residents which organise themselves to achieve their objectives. The environment (law, regulations and attitudes of local authorities) in which they operate was noted to be important to their activities and much effort has been put into upgrading the quality and intensity of the authorities’ communication with local residents. The learning process has reached the stage at which the democratic system has begun to improve itself, a sign of a maturing democracy. The thesis addresses a gap in the literature on the processes underpinning democratic consolidation in Poland. Its findings suggest that as the reformers of Polish local government in the years immediately following the overthrow of communist rule believed, local democracy and local democratic practices are an important component of the wider (national) project of democratic consolidation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Poland, Poznań, transition, democratic consolidation, local government, local democracy, civil society, community, neighbourhood, responsiveness, effectiveness, accountability
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Slavonic Studies
College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Paddison, Prof. Ronan and McManus, Dr. Clare
Date of Award: 2011
Embargo Date: 31 May 2014
Depositing User: Ms Olga J Mausch-Debowska
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2650
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:58
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2650

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