On the social content of local self-government
Keywords:local self-government, municipal government, civic participation, public opinion, municipal elections
The author argues that the social studies devoted to the Russian local self-government are dominated by uncritical borrowing of the basic vocabulary and the axiomatics of the municipal law. Such studies reproduce ideal concepts enshrined in the legislation and legal doctrine to substitute for the critical analysis of the social reality processes. To understand the true meaning of what is referred to as local self-government the author proposes to consider the correlation between the legal-dogmatic concept and the results of empirical research. For that purpose, three constitutive features of local self-government are singled out: inclusiveness, accessibility and autonomy of local authorities. Analyzing the data of the public opinion surveys, the author observes the lack of public confidence in the municipal authorities, their distancing from the local communities and proximity to the regional government. As an example, the author examines cancelation of direct elections of heads of municipalities which brings into sharp focus contradictions between actual processes and the local self-government theory. At the same time, public perceptions of local self-government as a value and a directly observed phenomenon remain uncertain. Based on the results of the analysis, the author concludes that there is a principal divergence between the reality and the normative conception of local self-government which raises the issue of its rethinking in social sciences. The basis of the study is the data of the nationwide representative surveys conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center and the Public Opinion Foundation.
Acknowledgment. The paper is supported by the Russian Science Foundation, project no. 14-28-00218-II “Dynamics of social transformation in modern Russia in socio-economic, political, socio-cultural and ethno-religious contexts”.