Browsing by Author "Bäcklund, Pia"

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  • Bäcklund, Pia (Helsingin kaupungin tietokeskus, 2007)
    The present study examines citizen participation in local government and municipal democracy. Previous research has shown that the prerequisite for active citizenship lies in the opportunities available for local residents to determine which perspectives and planning needs are relevant. This research looks at whether the conception of knowledge employed in municipal planning allows for this kind of active role for local citizens. Methodologically the study employs an hermeneutic approach. The aim has been to identify various approaches steering the practice of municipal democracy. The theory behind the study comes from the assumption of the intersubjectivity of reality. Construing the rationality of one s own behaviour is seen as a prerequisite for meaningful action. In this context, criteria for the functionality of municipal democracy and the purpose of strengthening citizen participation are defined. The study is divided into two parts. Firstly, the purpose of participation and the opportunities for local residents to contribute is examined theoretically with reference to previous studies. The intention is to provide an overview of the Finnish cross-disciplinary debate on resident participation. This debate is reflected onto the prevailing views on changes in the municipal operating environment and modes of operation. In conclusion, a theoretical model is constructed to explain how the various modes of operation in regional municipalities affect the purpose of resident participation and the utilisation of information received through this participation. The second part of the study discusses the utilisation of this information and knowledge acquired through the participation of local residents and all those involved in political and administrative processes in municipalities. These first-hand reports are analysed using the model constructed earlier in the study. The goal is to understand how political and administrative practice affects opportunities for local residents to participate and contribute. The core of this analysis is based on the pragmatic conception of knowledge employed in municipal administration. The study argues that the normal practice of municipal administration does not support the systematic utilisation of local residents experience. This is caused by two interlinked factors: firstly, knowledge constructed through these practices requires that the knowledge is apolitical; secondly, arising from this there is confusion with regard to when during a planning process does information obtained from the public become relevant; in other words, what are the politics of knowledge? The study suggests that the solution is in the complementary concept of knowledge, which implicitly acknowledges the politics of knowledge. The complementary concept of knowledge would serve the politicisation of issues on the level of interpretations linked with social reality, an indispensable requirement for functional democracy. Keywords: participation, municipal democracy, knowledge base for planning, experiential knowledge