Guest editors’ introduction: the power of now. Reimagining the future of local government through studies of ‘actually existing’ practice

Neil Barnett*, Steven Griggs, Helen Sullivan

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This introduction contends that the study of UK local government, its institutions and actors is an increasingly ‘niche’ pursuit. We argue that the field is caught in a commonsense narrative that plays off local government institutional decline against a widespread belief in the future democratic and progressive value of the ‘council-to-come’. Identifying persistent appeals to such deficiency narratives, we suggest that ‘actually existing’ local government is reduced to the site of critical shortcomings in the present, while its agency is deferred to a future when the council has become what it is not. Such logics, we conclude, reach their height in recent studies of local austerity governance. In response, we call for a change of direction towards an ethos of municipal pragmatism that grounds inquiry in ‘real world’ problems, while developing richer or thicker understandings of the agency of local government that can generate alternative visions grounded in its everyday work.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)505-523
    Number of pages19
    JournalLocal Government Studies
    Volume46
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

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