The Limits to Citizen Power
Participatory Democracy and the Entanglements of the State
Victor Albert
Pluto Press 2016
HB ISBN 9780745336121
PB ISBN 9780745336176
eISBN 9781783717972
Cost per page: p
In the twilight of Brazil’s military regime, a new union movement emerged in the south-east industrial region of São Paulo that helped give life to a new political party. The Workers’ Party, as it was called, would go on to enjoy enormous electoral success, which enabled it to champion a whole raft of participatory reforms. Today, Brazil is cited, and celebrated, as a laboratory for popular and participatory forms of government. However, no political project can exist entirely outside the power relations from which it is trying to emerge. Drawing on long term ethnographic research, Victor Albert provides a critical analysis of citizen participation in Santo André, in the region of Greater São Paulo where the Workers’ Party was founded. He explores the challenges participants face as they take part in participatory institutions pervaded by the administrative culture of the state. Participatory Democracy and the Entanglements of the State offers a fascinating window into how the power relations between political appointees, public officials and local community activists is expressed and reproduced in everyday interactions in public assemblies and meetings. Albert also reveals how different social actors think and feel about citizen participation away from formal assemblies, and how some participants engage in what is a tenuous, and at times mutually distrustful, tactical and strategic relationship with political patrons.
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