Historical Social Research

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Everhard Holtmann & Christian RademacherDecentralization of Power and of Decision-Making – An Institutional Driver for Systems Change to Democracy [Abstract]

Regarding processes of system change towards democracy, rule of law and market economy from a comparative point of view, the decentralization of political institutions and of managing public affairs is one important system goal. Based on German experience in two times of transformation (1945/49 and 1989/90), the article reflects on the usefulness of transferring these (meanwhile historic) experiences as a specific “lesson” to the Korean peninsula. Our conclusion is threefold: First, a reform of the political system should combine a maintaining vertical hierarchy acting top down with local autonomy with either a strong or a weak set of responsibility. Second, an elite circulation of small size which incorporates cooperative parts of old elites seems to be useful; thereby risks of obstruction can be neutralized and local rationalities can be unlocked in situations of transition crises. Third, local self-government serves not only as a “driver” of democratization but also for optimizing people`s demands of functional execution of public services.

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