Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Unger, Danny, 1955-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Thailand--Politics and government--20th century; Thailand--Politics and government--21st century; Thailand--Social conditions--20th century; Thailand--Social conditions--21st century; Decentralization in government--Thailand; Social capital (Sociology)--Thailand


Much of the existing literature on development administration assumes that local administrative performance is mostly a result of officials' technical training and of administrative design. This study offers a fuller understanding of Thai municipal administration in the context of decentralization by paying attention to features of the changing local political and social contexts. It examines the impact of decentralization policy on municipal governments, the new strategies various actors adopt in coping with this changing environment, the new patterns of relations between local community groups and municipal governments, the influence of state institutions on civic engagement and local participation in municipal affairs, and the impact that social capital, operationlized as trust and social networks, has on levels of citizens' participation and democratic institutions' effectiveness. This study explores qualitatively the municipal sociopolitical contexts and the dynamics of relations between municipal governments and local communities under the new challenging environment created by decentralization. The analysis then tests two hypothesized structural models of social capital utilizing data gathered through survey questionnaires. The study finds that residents' associational life is a significant predictor of levels of municipal participation. Generalized trust and municipal participation are significant predictors of perceived municipal government effectiveness. The study also finds a significant causal relationship between levels of trust among municipal officials and their willingness to encourage public participation. Trust among municipal officials also proved to be a significant predictor of perceived municipal government effectiveness in this model. The findings have policy implications for administrative decentralization in Thailand and other developing countries. By sharply realigning the incentives of local politicians and officials, decentralization is boosting local participation by community groups. The findings suggest that the success of this strategy is linked to prevailing levels of social capital. Decentralization has created wider social spaces that civic groups (and politicians) can use to their benefit. Politicians' and officials' capacities to effect local policies depend on the degree and nature of their links to local communities.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [252]-273).


xii, 298 pages




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