Civic pride and political expediency: The enduring founding principles for local government in Germany and England?

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper highlights how the contrasting founding principles of local government in Germany and England has affected the capacity of municipalities in both countries since 1800. Drawing on detailed interviews with practitioners in the ‘twin towns’ of Newcastle and Gelsenkirchen, as well as academic literature discussing the history of local governance in the two countries, it takes a historical institutionalist perspective (March and Olsen 1989; Pierson 2000) to show how the reasons why modern local authorities were created have shaped their future activities and capacity. For example, the British Government established municipalities in England for reasons of political expediency (primarily to deal with the public health crisis caused by the Industrial Revolution), whereas their German counterparts were set up to provide a means of civic representation and foster local pride. The result is that English local authorities have generally acted as functional agents that deliver services on behalf of central government, whilst German councils are more readily viewed as the democratic embodiment of local communities.This perception, combined with the legal and resource parameters within which they operate, has meant that English local authorities have significantly less institutional capacity than their German counterparts – and therefore they usually require external support to address a particular public policy issue effectively. In contrast, German municipalities are much more able to exert hierarchical authority and shape their communities directly.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Paper presented to the 65th annual conference of the UK Political Studies Association in Sheffield


  • local government
  • England
  • Germany
  • Historical institutionalism, path dependency, biotechnology policy
  • civic pride

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