A Tragedy of the Councils? Exploring the Hollowing-Out Hypothesis – The Case of Norwegian Local Authorities

  • Dag Ingvar Jacobsen


In the debate on governance structures, it is often assumed that traditional political and administrative institutions are “hollowed-out” in favour of other actors at the international, national and local levels. But how valid is this assumption? By using a variant of the reputational method for studying power, local politicians in 30 Norwegian municipalities were asked to assess the power of other actors in different fields – the local administration, central government, local media, local pressure and interest groups, and international institutions like the EU – in relation to the perceived power of the political local council. The main conclusion is that three main actors are clearly perceived as more powerful than other actors: the local political council, the local administration and the state. Other actors were deemed much less influential, indicating that the power of local politicians may be rather large. Findings indicate that old hierarchical government structures seem still to be highly influential. In addition, the perceived power of local authorities varies across municipalities and within them. Implications for governance studies are discussed. KEYWORDS: • local self-government • governance structures • local authorities • hollowing-out hypothesis • Norway