This book is the first volume of aseries that aims at taking stock of the status of local democracy at the beginning of a new century. Modern local govern- th me nt is largely a 19 century invention in response to processes of urbanisa- tion and industrialisation. It became charged with the mundane tasks of pav- ing and lighting streets, collecting refuse and providing clean water and sanitary sewerage, sometimes also acquiring a role in education and health. Anyone who has experienced a breakdown in such services knows how es- sential they are to civilised life in urban society. Urban civilisation could simply not exist without working municipalities. The importance of munici- pal functions ensures that the control over the municipality becomes a vital political issue. In most countries, democratisation of local government pre- ceded and was an important step towards a fuH national democracy. Munici- palities offered potential for the realisation of democratic citizenship at a comprehensible level of government and also became training grounds for participation in democracy on a larger scale. As institutions of the industrial era, local governments may not necessarily be able to respond adequately to the needs and aspirations of citizens of a post-industrial and global age. There are signs that citizens in a number of countries are loosing patience with local government. However, many municipalities also seek to open up new chan- nels of participation for and communication with citizens.
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