The Interaction of Society and Authorities in Urban Development: The Case of Big Cities of Northwestern Federal District

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The balanced urban development, the formation of a comfortable urban environment, including the citizens’ active participation in these processes is a priority in the strategic objectives and national projects of the Russian Federation. To reveal the essence of the interactions between society and government the author uses the concept of “civic participation” as a process by which public associations or individuals are involved in interactions with the state (vertical interaction), with other socio-political institutions among themselves (horizontal interaction) to solve socially significant problems. Based on quantitative (questionnaire survey of the urban population, N = 2000) and qualitative (expert interviews, N = 47) methods tested in 5 large cities of the Northwestern Federal District, the author reveals the features of offline and online practices of interaction between the public and authorities, as well as the conditions for their formation in urban development issues. The author concludes that such practices as contacting the authorities and participating in initiative budgeting are more widespread in the cities than, for example, protest participation on the city’s issues. Despite the preference for offline practices for constructive interactions between society and authorities, the active use of information resources and online services is becoming timely. The institutional environment of civic participation is provided with formal regulators, but urban residents are far from being fully informed about them and are not aware of the legal opportunities and limitations that determine their participation in urban development. Informal norms as part of the institutional environment, on the one hand, contribute to the formation of sustainable interactions and organizational infrastructure of socially useful activity; on the other hand, they can be based on the illegal practice of manipulating statuses and resources, which causes the growth of public distrust of state and municipal authorities. The article substantiates the importance of forming a unified information field at the city level on the topical issues of concern to residents, on possible formats of civic participation in the development of a comfortable urban environment. The findings contribute to the understanding of the problems and opportunities for the use of civic participation in urban development.

About the authors

Yulia V. Ukhanova

Vologda Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Institute of Sociology of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7307-9520

PhD in History, Senior Researcher, Head of Laboratory, Vologda Research Center; Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences

Vologda, Russian Federation; Moscow, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2023 Ukhanova Y.V.

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