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Collective Action Problems and Influence of Local Intergovernmental Associations (CAPLIA)

Local governments in federal systems have no constitutional right to co-legislate at higher levels of government, but higher level legislation directly impacts their tasks and resources and concomitantly their capabilities for action. In order to informally influence higher level legislation, they form intergovernmental associations. Those associations are non-hierarchical voluntary bodies. In order to lobby successfully, they must overcome inherent collective action problems and acquire the ability to act independently of their individual members' interests. Furthermore, those associations' success is assumed to be mediated by the position of local governments in the federal architecture, which varies across federal states. In federal architectures structured along a logic of competition and dualism, such as the United States, local government lobbying associations are just one actor among many other lobbying organizations. In cooperative federal architectures, like Germany, in contrast, local government associations have a more prominent position in intergovernmental negotiations and are likely to be taken into account due to the culture of joint decision-making. 

Based on those considerations, the CAPLIA project investigates local intergovernmental associations and their role in intergovernmental lobbying. It addresses three research questions: 

  1. How can local intergovernmental associations overcome inherent collective action action problems and acquire collective agency at first place?

  2. How successfully can local intergovernmental associations represent their members' interests in various federal architectures?

  3. How far is their success indeed linked to the degree of collective agency they display?

To answer the first question, the components of collective agency (action resources and autonomy) are mapped systematically for local intergovernmental associations in the US and Germany. In particular, those processes that might produce autonomy are reconstructed. This information is compiled in a dataset and analysed descriptively. To answer the second question, the influence of local government associations on federal legislation is traced. Therefore, in both countries, the process of preparing, discussing and deciding on legislative proposals regarding the resource endowment and/or the array of tasks of local governments is analysed by mining texts from first position papers to final publicized laws. By comparing the results of both work packages systematically, the third question can be answered, as the evidence gathered allows to relate the degree of collective agency of local intergovernmental associations to their lobbying and compare this relationship within as well as between the two federal systems. 

        Our Team       


Prof. Dr. Nathalie Behnke

Principal investigator

Nathalie Behnke is full professor and head of the working group "Public Administration, Public Policy" at the Institute of Political Science at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Her research is located at the intersection of public administration, comparative federalism and multilevel governance with a focus on coordination problems in multilevel governance. Recently, she investigated structures and processes of intergovernmental policy-making and conditions for coordinated implementation of wicked policy problems.

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Jonas Bernhard

Predoctoral Researcher

Jonas Bernhard has studied political science and history at the University of Heidelberg. During his studies he received a scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). His main research interests are in the fields of comparative politics, local governance, and political sociology.

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Till Jürgens

Predoctoral Researcher

Till Jürgens works as a research associate in the DFG project “Collective Action Problems and Influence of Local Intergovernmental Associations” at the Institute of Political Science at the Technical University of Darmstadt. He has studied Political Science in Göttingen and Darmstadt, and recently finished his Master with a thesis about municipal interest representation in Germany. His main interest include local government advocacy, intergovernmental relations, and collective action problems. 

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