Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance
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Critical Reflections on Interactive Governance

Self-organization and Participation in Public Governance

Edited by Jurian Edelenbos and Ingmar van Meerkerk

In many countries, government and society have undergone a major shift in recent years, now tending toward ‘smaller government’ and ‘bigger society’. This development has lent increased meaning to the notion of interactive governance, a concept that this book takes not as a normative ideal but as an empirical phenomenon that needs constant critical scrutiny, reflection and embedding in modern societies.
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Chapter 6: Interactive – or counteractive – governance? Lessons learned about citizen participation and political leadership

Asbjørn Røiseland and Signy Irene Vabo


With an increase in self-governance arrangements and civic initiatives, a new channel for citizen participation has developed in addition to traditional representative democracy. In Chapter 6, Røiseland and Vabo argue that large parts of the theoretical literature tend to see self-governance and civic initiatives as a fruitful and welcomed expansion of democracy, presuming classic representative democracy and newer forms of civic initiatives can go hand in hand. However, from the perspective of political leadership theory, it is not obvious that representation and direct participation can be linked together in any easy way. Some would even argue that there is a deep and insoluble tension between the two models of participation. This chapter elaborates on this possible tension by developing a typology of possible outcomes of different kinds of interactive governance, providing empirical examples from urban governance research. Røiseland and Vabo also discuss how the possible gap between representation and direct participation can be diminished.

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