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Nathalie Behnke, Jonas Bernhard & Till Jürgens: Understanding Collective Agency in the Long-Term Perspective: A Historical Comparative Case Study of Local Government Associations in Germany and the United States. [Abstract]

Although local governments play a crucial role in policy implementation in modern democracies, they have no formal rights of participation in higher level politics. To bridge this gap, local government associations (LGAs) have been established in many countries in order to represent local interests and to lobby higher level policy-making. Analysing LGAs as collective actors, we focus analytically on typical collective action problems they must solve. These are, first, attracting and keeping a broad membership and, second, arriving at joint decisions in spite of potential conflict of interest. Investigating the core question how LGAs gain collective agency, we argue that they need to solve those two types of collective action problems, but furthermore, country specific context factors shape the way in which they emerge and evolve. Empirically, we combine a historical reconstruction with a structured focused comparison. We analyse six LGAs in Germany and the US, going back roughly 100 years in history to reconstruct their foundational moments as well as shaping events in their development until today, structuring the narratives along the relevant categories developed in the analytic framework. The analysis reveals that indeed the collective action problems triggered largely the same mechanisms for their solution, thereby impacting in similar ways the establishment and development of LGAs in Germany and the US. Yet, persistent differences can be traced to country specific context factors, most notably the federal culture and architecture as well as specific historical events.

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