First Advisor

Richard A. Clucas

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Political Science and University Honors


Political Science


Legitimacy of governments -- Argentina, Legitimacy of governments -- United States, Neoliberalism, Local government




An extension of capitalism’s relentless growth, neoliberal globalization has characterized most of the policies and practices that have proliferated between nation-states since the late 1970's, producing a "flatter" world in which spheres of influence, both economically and politically, have become inextricably interdependent. Some prominent results of this interdependence include consolidation of wealth, extreme socioeconomic stratification, greater influence of money upon politics, and deepening ideological divide within the populace. Increased sharing of the roles and responsibilities of governing with the private sector, along with increased access to information and exposure to systemic nepotism, have together undermined the sovereignty and preeminence of nation states as the most relevant governmental institutions. As nations have lost relevance and, as a result, legitimacy to their constituents, cities have picked up the slack, making great gains in effective models of interdependence via decentralization, becoming major loci for capital exchange, and increased approval ratings as "laboratories for democracy." Through a focused literature review of legitimacy, decentralization and participatory governance, as well as a comparative case study of two cities with differing political cultures, both globally-recognized for their progressive governance programs, this thesis seeks to examine the ways by which cities may effectively and sustainably cultivate increased legitimacy through participatory programming. Drawing upon emerging literature and original surveys I suggest that those participatory programs of the past have been hampered by the neoliberal, business-model approach of "governance" itself, and have not delivered the results necessary to cultivate sustained perceptions of local government legitimacy.


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