Bridge over troubled water" : en studie av samspillet mellom folkeaksjoner og politiskeprosesser i en norsk kommune
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Participation in the political arena has changed over time in both form and scope. While we previously considered elections and party policy as the most important channels for political influence, in the last decades we have registered a trend towards more direct forms of participation. The last Norwegian power and democracy study (2003) concludes that this trend contributes to a decline of democracy. The purpose of this paper has been twofold. First and foremost, I have with help of a case study, researched the interaction between one specific civic action and the consequent official political processes within a limited period of time. Secondly, I have with regard to the papers theoretical foundation, discussed the findings of the study in relation to the conflicting points between direct and representative democracy. The theoretical background for the paper is divided in two. Using among other things, the results and the empirical data presented in the power and democracy study from 2003, I have made a number of assumptions about how activism as a form of political participation relates to the formal processes, as well as the characteristics of actions, the actors and what effects they are believed to have on the outcome of political processes. In order to use task findings to discuss the relationship between direct and representative democracy, I have included Ian Budge’s arguments for and against direct participation To answer the main question of this paper, I have conducted a time-limited case study of the conflict-driven construction of a pedestrian- and bicycle-bridge in the municipality of Mandal. The basis for empirical data is gathered through document analyses of both articles from the media and municipal documents. As a form of analysis I have used process analysis, to be able to describe how something occurs, changes and evolves over time. The analysis of the data reveals a process with a number of actors involved in the interaction, where activity levels and intensity largely are governed by fixed political events. I have described the lifecycle of the process phases, and conclude that public actions and political processes develop simultaneously but independent of one another, only to meet on common arenas when decision-time is approaching. Finally, I have made a comparison and discussion of the results and arguments for and against direct democracy. After studying my individual case I question whether the reaction channel at all has influence on the outcome of a case, or if it only affects what is put on the agenda and what kind of form and content the political debate has. Last, but not least, I discuss the question; is this really a democratic problem?
Masteroppgave i offentlig politikk og ledelse- Universitetet i Agder 2009