Transformations urbaines et élites politiques locales

Summary of the research plan

Requérent principal: Prof. Dr. Oscar Mazzoleni, OVPR, UNIL
Equipe: Andrea Pilotti, André Mach, Roberto Di Capua & Karim Lasseb (University of Lausanne)  
Durée du projet: 2016-2020

Under the pressure of globalization and Europeanization, European States, including Switzerland, are experiencing an increasing transformation of sub-national forms of democratic life, enhancing the importance of local and especially urban political participation and governance (John 2001; Le Galès 2011; Mossberger et al. 2012). Whilst scholars and the public tend to suppose that the differences between now and the first decades after World War II are very strong, few systematic analyses are available. Our research project aims to contribute to a better knowledge of the profile of urban elected representatives over time in connection with the transformation of the urban context, and especially in the period since the 1980s. A number of questions arise: Who are these representatives in charge of local decision-making, both in legislative and executive power, and in what ways are they different from their colleagues of the past? Our main research questions are twofold: To what extent do social, institutional, and political changes affect the profile of the elected representatives? And is it possible to observe an increasing democratization and professionalization of the urban political elite? Assuming sub-national legacies are crucial in the evolution of urban political elites, our projectsimultaneously adopts a comparative approach and a prosopographic perspective able to take into account change and persistence over time in a detailed manner at the individual level.Our research will focus on the evolution of four cities in Switzerland (Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano, and Zurich), which represent different legacies among the main urban Municipalities, in terms of demographic, institutional, economic, and political points of view. For each of the municipalities, we will analyze the evolution of the elected representatives (age, education, profession, gender, and political longevity) in legislative and executive institutions in the period between 1946 and 2016, in relation to urban, institutional, and political transformations. More precisely, wewant to verify the impact of demographic and socioeconomic settings, local party system changes, institutional and partisan rules, and the role of the municipalities in public policies on the evolution of the profile of local political elites.The project will systematically collect data about every elected representative in each election year, data that is stored in municipal archives and so far remains largely unexploited. An initial harvesting of the data concerning Lausanne and Lugano has revealed the richness of these holdings and allows a systematic examination of the elected representatives, permitting a systematic quantitative analysis.An important goal of the project is to support the recent revitalization of urban research on the political elite and thereby contribute to it catching up with national and international counterparts, where this sub-field has seen a considerable renewal in recent years, bridging with the statewide political elite studies. The organization of an international conference at the end of the research will give the opportunity to bring together leading scholars in the study of the urban political elite and to present the results of the research. Moreover, the research project integrates two PhD studies and therefore contributes to the advancement of young academic careers. Since questions about the political relevance of urban municipalities to Swiss governance, especially in the major cities, have excited more interest in Switzerland in recent years, the proposed research project also seeks to achieve the wide diffusion of its findings, and to reach out not only to the scientific community, but also to the general public.

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