Dissertation Abstracts

Co-Operation between Representatives and Officials — A Theoretical Study of Interaction in Finnish Municipal Committees

Author: Klemelä, Juha , jklemela@utu.fi
Department: Department of Sociology
University: University of Turku, Finland
Supervisor: Prof. Hannu Ruonavaara
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: co-operation , elected representatives , municipal office-holders , municipal self
Areas of Research: Organization , Political Sociology , Social Psychology


This licentiate thesis treats the interaction between the elected representatives and the leading office-holders in the service sector committees in Finnish local government. The aim is to deepen the theoretical comprehension of the actor groups’ relationship by building a model of the premises of their co-operation. The point of view taken is micro sociological and symbolic interactionist.

The actors in the two positions are meant to work in concert for the good of the municipality. Their relationship is a complex one, like any link between politics and administration. The committee representatives are the formal leaders, but the office-holders sometimes seem to have a disproportionate amount of say. The representatives’ significance and the functioning of the municipal democracy have every now and then been questioned.

The two actor-categories are differentiated. There is a set division of labour between them and the representatives and the officials have average differences in background and perspective. These factors affect the characteristic approaches that they take to committee work. The differentiation produces the actors’ distinct municipal selves, that is, their local government role-identity sets. Incumbents in both position-roles may claim party political, professional, and administrative function-roles, though with different emphases. Role-guided conduct is culturally deeply embedded in the respective party political, professional, and administrative social worlds that meet on the municipal arena.

The representatives and the officials act out their role-identities and use diverse resources. They are motivated by the need to retain and enhance self-esteem and to get rewards. Rules and practices control how they can influence the committee tasks. These points are put together in the thesis to form a model of the premises of municipal committee action.

The actors’ interaction is studied as a collective, negotiated accomplishment and a model of co-operation premises applicable to the relationship between the two types of municipal selves in committees is presented. Co-operation builds on the four elements of task(s), means, opportunities, and the motivating dependence relations of complementarity and supportiveness. These relations are energized by the use and quest for power and status. Dynamics is brought to the model by using the idea of negotiated order as the fifth element.

A special feature of the model of the premises of co-operation is that co-operation does not have to take place exclusively in harmony. There can be beneficial dissentient ingredients in successful interaction also.