Size and Democracy Revisited A Critical Discussion of the Claimed Trade-off between Problem-Solving Capacity and Citizen Participation


  • Asbjørn Røiseland Nord University, Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Signy I Vabo University of Oslo, Institute of Political Science



local government, citizen effectiveness, citizen participation, system capacity, governance capacity


Classic literature on size and democracy argues that there is a trade-off between opportunities for broad citizen participation and communities’ ability to deal effectively with the challenges faced by their locality. Consequently, smaller political units enrich democracy, while larger units strengthen the capacity to govern. We argue that although the trade-off may be relevant within a framework concentrating on representative democratic institutions, the trade-off is questionable in the light of more recent contributions on democratic, network-based governance. The article develops this argument, and suggests elements that should be included in a revised theory of municipal size.


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