• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Governing American communities becomes ever more challenging in the contemporary political and economic environment. People in communities seek to exercise local control of public programs as they confront powerful special interests and public demands for a smaller, more responsive public sector. Furthermore, they contend with an entrenched traditional view of public professionals as experts who control public agencies and provide services. Drawing on fundamental ideas about the relationship of citizens to the public sphere, Richard C. Box presents a model of “citizen governance.” Recognizing the challenges in the community governance setting, he advocates rethinking the structure of local government and the roles of citizens, elected officials, and public professionals in the 21st century. His model shifts a large part of the responsibility for local public policy from the professional and the elected official to the citizen. Citizens take part directly in creating and implementing policy, elected officials coordinate the policy process, and public professionals facilitate citizen discourse, offering the knowledge of public practice needed for successful “citizen governance.”

The Nature of Community Governance
The nature of community governance
Describing the Institution of Local Governance

A good place to begin an examination of the nature of community governance is to describe how it serves as an institution in our lives. An institution is a large and enduring set of practices that we accept, take for granted, because these practices are so familiar and so much a part of daily life. Philip Selznick wrote that, “a social form becomes institutionalized as, through growth and adaptation, it takes on a distinctive character or function, becomes a receptacle of vested interests, or is charged with meaning as a vehicle of personal satisfaction or aspiration” (1992, 233). Such a social form, because of this “distinctive character,” endures, lasts longer, than ...

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