"Local Politics Research in Germany: Developments and Characteristics in Comparative Perspective."
This article summarizes the development and peculiarities of research in urban politics in Germany. It is focused on the working group on Local Politics Research (Arbeitskreis Lokale Politikforschung/LoPoFo) within the German Political Science Association as the core of the scholarly debate in this country for nearly 30 years. The article consists of three parts. Part one highlights theparadigms of local politics research in Germany and its main distinctions from other disciplinary approaches in analysing urban topics – not at least sociology. The second part gives an overview of the different thematic orientations of the discussion since the 1970s. This leads to the third part in which strengths and weaknesses of local politics research in Germany are compared with the situation in other countries (especially the Anglo-Saxon world). It can be perceived as a strength that local politics research has been in many respects a front-runner in the disciplinary debate of political science in Germany. This is the result of the fact that most scholars engaged in local politics research do not act as ‘urbanists’ but as ‘generalists’, looking for urban topics as tokens of more general phenomena. However, this aspect reflects also a crucial weakness. There is not continuity in the debate, and a common understanding of theories and methodologies of research in local politics is missing. Last but not least, weaknesses and strengths are expressed in the structures of German universities where local politics is not institutionalized through curricula or job descriptions, as in the Anglo-Saxon world.