9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Governance, Participation and Local Politics Building I, 2E9

A Marriage of Reason and Passion? The Co-operativeness of the Representative-Leading Official -Relationship in the Decision-making Work of the Finnish Local Government Committees

The study is a micro sociological investigation into the relationship between the politically elected representatives and the leading office-holders in the committees in the Finnish local government. The aim is to deepen the comprehension of the interaction between the groups' members and to assess the quality of their co-operation.

The two actor types or groups are supposed to work in concert for the good of the municipality. Their interaction is not trouble-free, however. The office-holders seem to have a disproportionate amount of say. The representatives' significance and the municipal democracy in general have been questioned.

The two actor-categories are structurally differentiated. There is a set division of labor between them and the representatives are the formal leaders. The actors may also be, on the average, different in relation to their frames of reference, attitudes, language, and behavior.

The symbolic interactionist notion of role-identity is used to create a novel concept of municipal self for the actors and to fix their differentiation. Three identities are fitted to both organizational positions: the political, the professional, and the administrative. Also a set of role-focuses are used. The municipal actors' efforts to and success in maintaining prominent and situationally salient (sets of) identities (and focuses) guide their perceptions, emotions, action and interaction, including intergroup co-operation.

A model of co-operation applicable to the studied relationship is developed in the work. Co-operation is not just about consensus, but there can be beneficial dissentient elements in successful interaction also. Co-operation is studied as negotiated order and including the elements of task(s), agency, contact, and co-ordination, and the motivating forces of complementarity and supportiveness. The municipal government constitutes the arena for this co-operation as an amalgam of the bureaucratic, political and professional fields and frameworks of action.

An empirical tasks is to find out, how the perceived relationship fulfils the theoretical criteria of co-operation, and to establish, if the representatives and the leading officials experience their interaction as functional and beneficial for the municipality as a whole and for the actors themselves. The data comes from municipal committees and offices and consist of documents, observations, and interviews.