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Democracy as political agency: governance and emancipation in mega-cities

Wojciechowska, Marta (2020) Democracy as political agency: governance and emancipation in mega-cities. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis challenges two commonly held views in political and urban theory. The first is that democracy is in crisis and that it is not able to respond to the growing complexities of the modern world. The second is that mega-cities are spaces of misery that are too chaotic to be governed democratically. Against these views, this thesis develops an alternative conception of democracy, according to which any polity can be democratic as long as it promotes the political agency of its members in conditions of complex equality. Following this conception, a democratic polity should promote a variety of direct and indirect ways to enable its members to realise their choices in relation to the rules of collective life. Furthermore, a democratic polity should create conditions that permit its members to reflect on these rules. This conception of democracy sheds new light on existing democratic institutions but also enables us to look beyond the state and to evaluate democratic prospects in unconventional settings. As an example of such an unconventional setting, the thesis focuses on mega-cities, defined as large and diverse forms of urban settlements. Mega-cities instantiate complexity, interdependence and fragmentation of collective decision-making. The current literature in political and urban theory often assumes that the key to solving these problems lies in stronger, centralised governance. By contrast, my analysis suggests that the way to effectively govern mega-cities lies in a mixture of social, structural, and political strategies. In existing mega-cities such strategies are often successfully implemented by civil society organisations, social movements, and institutions of participatory governance. The thesis concludes that the present democratic ideal is relevant for the guidance of decision-making even within challenging and complex settings. Finally, the thesis proposes a set of recommendations for democratic, emancipatory governance in mega-cities under which the cities’ inhabitants are treated as key actors.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Marta Wojciechowska
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: List, Christian

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