The democratic distemper
McManus, M. Hunt, R.
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Back to top. Get to Know Us. In the absence of a comparative context it is impossible to understand fully any social system.
No one should believe that the political and social structures of their own country necessarily harbour the only, let alone the best, possible administrative arrangements. The study of government and administration is of little value unless it can lead to the development of better practice through understanding of alternative structures and methods. In the arena of local government, for example, an ethnocentric Briton may be excused for believing that all local authorities are necessarily large impersonal bureaucracies that, despite a locally elected council, are largely concerned with administering functions on behalf of central government.
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The student would certainly not realise that, in other democracies, systems of local government may have more communally based structures and, nevertheless, be governed by politicians who have national standing. In the United States or France local government can be genuinely local and permit small communities of only a few hundred souls to be major actors in determining their future and their standards of basic public services.
In France local politicians are respected representatives of their localities and may even hold ministerial political office within the state. The abject condition of local government in Britain is not a universal phenomenon. There are several excellent studies that give a valuable insight into the basic political structures and processes of larger liberal democracies.
Rethinking immigration policy theory beyond ‘Western liberal democracies’
These studies, however, cover too large a range of political institutions and processes to give much more than a cursory analysis of the administrative structures of most states. Students must frequently obtain more detailed information on particular aspects of political systems by collating studies dealing with one specific country. These will frequently emphasise differing aspects of each system and thus make effective comparison a problematic exercise. An unknown error has occurred.