The scholarly debate on size-specific features of local democratic systems is inconclusive. Contradictory arguments concerning size effects have been formulated for three normative qualities of democracy – participation, accountability and representation and for system capacity. It has been argued that increasing municipal size has the potential to improve the democratic process, but also that municipal fragmentation is the basis for quality of democracy at the local level. The relations between size, system capacity and different democratic principles have usually been studied empirically by using quantitative analyses of various features of political systems of different size. Most interest has been devoted to democratic aspects which can be quantified relatively easily. Other aspects which play an equally important role in normative democratic theory were left aside. In the paper the importance of municipal size for democratic decision processes was studied in a less common way. Instead of large-scale comparative analyses, three qualitative case studies in extremely small municipalities were conducted, aimed to investigate in-depth the political processes within the municipalities. The results did not indicate any fundamental deficiencies in terms of concentration of power, political apathy, marginalization of social groups or missing transparency of the political process, nor insufficient capacities of effective governance, as implied by some theoretical premises in the debate on size and democracy. On the other hand, the analysis neither confirmed that such small municipalities would automatically enhance quality deliberation of public issues and an intense participation of all citizens. The level of opportunities for participation and deliberation was determined primarily by the executive board’s willingness to create such opportunities.
kapitola v knize / monografii
Bernard, Josef. 2015. „Demokratie im Dorf - Demokratiequalität in kleinen Schweizer Gemeinden.“ Pp. 59-92 in Daniel Kübler, Oliver Dlabac (Eds.). Demokratie in der Gemeinde: Herausforderungen und mögliche Reformen. Zürich: Schulthess.