Governance relations in small nations: Competition vs. cooperation and the triple role of big cities

Itai Beeri, Magnús Árni Skjöld Magnússon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-284
Number of pages18
JournalLex Localis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 30 Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Lex localis.


  • Competition
  • Cooperation
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • New localism
  •  governance relations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Law


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