TAS214 US and European Local Governmental Systems

Teacher responsible:

Dr. Paweł Laidler

Brief course description:

The course provides basic information concerning the structure and power of local governments in selected European countries and the United States. In all democratic countries local governments are the institutions that operate closest to the people by regulating various social and economic issues. It is thus important to understand the position of local governments in respective democracies, as well as the relations between local and central governments. Furthermore, many local institutions cooperate with their counterparts in neighboring countries (Europe) and with other local institutions of the same country (horizontal federalism in the United States). Information in this dimension is important to enrich students' knowledge about main political systems of the contemporary world.


The main aims of the course are:
1) providing information about contemporary local governmental systems of Europe and the United States;
2) comparison of the position of local governments in selected countries;
3) analysis of relations between local institutions of different European countries;
4) showing the differences between local governments in federalist countries and unitary countries; and
5) addressing the problems that face local governments in the 21st century.


1. Introduction to the course: Why local governments are so important?
2. Contemporary forms of government: federalism and confederation.
3. Contemporary forms of government: unitary countries.
4. Local governments in the United States: states, counties and municipalities.
5. Local governments in Poland: "województwa" and "gminy".
6. Local governments in selected European countries: Germany, Italy and France.
7. Local governments in selected European countries: Great Britain, Spain and the Benelux.
8. Local governments in selected European countries: Russia and Switzerland.
9. Cooperation between central and local governments: domination or equalization?
10. Cooperation between local governments in Europe: a chance for development.
11. Cooperation between the US states and other local governments in Northern America.
12. Participation of inhabitants in urban and local initiatives.
13. Position of legal acts implemented by local institutions in the hierarchy of sources of law.
14. Local governmental organizations in the European Union and the United States.
15. Regional cooperation in the 20th century.

Reading list:

Norbert Kersting, Angelika Vetter, Reforming Local Government in Europe: Closing the Gap between Democracy and Efficiency; Edward C. Page, Localism and Centralism in Europe: the Political and Legal Bases of local Self-Government (Comparative Politics); Edward C. Page, Michael Goldsmith, Central and local Government Relations: A Comparative Analysis of West European Unitary States; David C. Saffel, Harry Baseheart, State and Local Government; Kevin B. Smith, State and Local Government: 2005-2006.