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Going Local:
Decentralization, Democratization, and the Promise of Good Governance
Merilee S. Grindle

Paperback | 2009 | $28.95 | £23.95 | ISBN: 9780691140988
256 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 10 halftones. 9 line illus. 17 tables. 7 maps.
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Many developing countries have a history of highly centralized governments. Since the late 1980s, a large number of these governments have introduced decentralization to increase democracy and improve services, especially in small communities far from capital cities. In Going Local, an unprecedented study of the effects of decentralization on thirty Mexican municipalities, Merilee Grindle describes how local governments respond when they are assigned new responsibilities and resources under decentralization policies. She explains why decentralization leads to better local governments in some cases--and why it fails to in others.

Combining quantitative and qualitative methods, Grindle examines data based on a random sample of Mexican municipalities--and ventures into town halls to follow public officials as they seek to manage a variety of tasks amid conflicting pressures and new expectations. Decentralization, she discovers, is a double-edged sword. While it allows public leaders to make significant reforms quickly, institutional weaknesses undermine the durability of change, and legacies of the past continue to affect how public problems are addressed. Citizens participate, but they are more successful at extracting resources from government than in holding local officials and agencies accountable for their actions. The benefits of decentralization regularly predicted by economists, political scientists, and management specialists are not inevitable, she argues. Rather, they are strongly influenced by the quality of local leadership and politics.


"In analyzing the exciting array of promising reforms as well as the inertia of clientelistic traditions, Grindle weights the introduction of political-party competition, the role of innovative ideas and entrepreneurial leaders, the implementation of modern methods of public administration, and the logic of civil society."--Richard Feinberg, Foreign Affairs

"Merilee Grindle has already made her reputation as a painstaking scholar of governance, bureaucracy and policymaking in Latin America and across the developing world, but Going Local seals her standing as a leading analyst of governance."--Diane E. Davis, ReVista

"[T]his book will be a valuable reference not only for scholars interested in decentralization or local government in Mexico, but for anyone who is interested in public affairs. . . . Grindle contributes to all these discussions, and does so in an entertaining and convincing way."--Guillermo M. Cejudo, Public Administration Review

"Going Local provides an important contribution to our understanding of just these issues. This book provides what is perhaps the most methodologically sound, comprehensive look at the effects of decentralisation in Mexico."--Emily Edmonds-Poli, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"Grindle's research has a strong practical orientation, and focuses on the nuts-and-bolts of implementing sustainable reform in industrializing countries. . . . Going Local is applied research at its best."--Francis E. Hutchison, ASEAN Economic Bulletin


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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables xi
Acronyms xiii
Acknowledgments xv
CHAPTER ONE: Going Local: Governance on the Line 1
CHAPTER TWO: Decentralizing Mexico: A Cautious Journey 25
CHAPTER THREE: Competitive Elections and Good Governance 63
CHAPTER FOUR: At Work in Town Hall: Leadership and Performance 85
CHAPTER FIVE: Modernizing Town Hall 106
CHAPTER SIX: Civil Society: Extracting Benefits and Demanding Accountability 124
CHAPTER SEVEN: What's New? Patterns of Municipal Innovation 145
CHAPTER EIGHT: The Promise of Good Governance 164
Notes 187
Bibliography 205
Index 217

This book has been translated into:

  • Macedonian

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