Governance Relations in Small Nations: Competition vs. Cooperation and the Triple Role of Big Cities

  • Itai Beeri iversity of Haifa, School of Political Science
  • Magnús Árni Skjöld Magnússon Bifröst University, Department of Social Sciences
Keywords: governance relations, competition, cooperation, new localism, Iceland, Israel


This article examines and compares governance relations of big cities in relatively small nation states in Reykjavík, Iceland, and Tel Aviv, Israel. The international literature has extensively explored governance at the municipal and national levels. We aim to enlarge this discussion by examining the unique role, experience and dynamics of large, dominant cities vis-à-vis other governance entities in the era of local governance. Using a grounded theory approach we suggest the frameworks of 'building strong nations', new localism, and 'cooperation versus collaboration' to enlighten nation-big city, state-big city and big city-city governance relations, respectively. We employed a qualitative design, using textual analysis and in-depth interviews with both state and local actors in the two countries. The results show that in both countries examined, dominant cities are required to fill a unique triple role: as leading cities in their metropolitan areas, in their respective states, and in their respective nations. Yet the two cases also differ in important ways. While Reykjavík is the head of a well-functioning community of co-producers, Tel Aviv is closer to a local jungle, where competition and competing interests prevent effective cooperation. Implications of the findings are discussed in the era of local governance.


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