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Till vilken nytta? : Om det lokala politiska deltagandets karaktär, komplexitet och konsekvenser


  • Tom Nilsson

Summary, in English

Political participation is promoted as a central component in a democracy. But what specifically is it that makes participation valuable and how do different forms of participation differ in regard to outcomes? A central aim of this study is to understand why different forms of participation produce different kinds of effects. The argument developed is that participation can be understood as having two fundamental dimensions ? a conflictual and an institutional. These dimensions are used as tools for creating a typology of participation consisting of conflictual and non-conflictual, and by the institutional dimension, integral, semi-integral and non-integral types. Analysing and comparing participation forms from the perspective of these types and through the lens of political equality helps us to understand the effects of participation on both a structural and individual level. Political equality is a central normative value that forms of political participation must be related to. However, if we are to take political participation at the local level seriously the idea of political equality should be related to the character of the political issue and focus should be on equality within political processes. The analysis shows that the differences in outcomes are substantial and varied. The character of the different types and their usefulness for different political issues means that they should be regarded as complementary and overlapping rather than mutually exclusive.The study's empirical analysis shows that even though a lot of effort has been put into including citizens in local Swedish politics, the results have been somewhat disappointing. In understanding why this is the case it is important to consider the over-arching democratic context. This is also found to be important is explaining the rather uneasy cooperation between citizens and public decision-makers such as local politicians and civil servants. This suggests that the limited impact of new forms of participation can be understood in relation to their relative strength (or lack of it) in the discourse of mainstream politics. This suggests an evolution towards one of two possible futures. The first is a position where the reforms successively gain legitimacy and evolve into participatory institutions where participants hold substantial power and are able to determine the outcome of decisions. Alternatively a position may emerge where the lack of genuine interest in wider participation leads to scepticism and disillusion about the possibility to democratise local politics. At present there are signs of both of these developments.

Publishing year





Lund Political Studies



Document type



Department of Political Science, Lund University


  • Political Science


  • Social sciences
  • The welfare state
  • The Swedish model
  • Discourse analysis
  • Conflicts
  • Institutions
  • Power
  • New forms of participation
  • Sweden
  • Democratic theory
  • Local democracy
  • Political participation
  • Political equality
  • Political and administrative sciences
  • Samhällsvetenskaper
  • Statsvetenskap
  • förvaltningskunskap




  • Lennart Lundquist


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 91-88306-51-8

Defence date

9 June 2005

Defence time


Defence place

Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Edens hörsal, 1 vån


  • Erik Amnå (Docent)