My research

The Politics of Local Participatory Democracy in Latin America: Institutions, Actors and Interactions, Stanford University Press (2015)


What is the impact of participatory democracy on the prospects for democratic deepening at the local level? How do these newly created participatory public spaces affect the nature of state-society relationships? The manuscript first proposes that current participatory democracy experiences have various levels of success at sustaining a deep transformation of traditional clientelistic relationships in practice.

Four types of relationships can emerge, all having a differentiated impact on the deepening of democracy: clientelism, disempowering co-option, fragmented inclusion and ‘democratizing’ cooperation. Drawing from the comparative case study of participatory budgeting in Belo Horizonte and Recife (Brazil), and of participatory planning in León and Nezahualcóyotl (Mexico), I argue that state-society cooperation has more potential to facilitate social inclusion patterns, greater state accountability and, consequently, the deepening of democracy. What are the conditions sustaining the development of collective social mobilization and higher autonomy, and thereby of cooperative relationships? My findings first show that in contexts where the historical patterns of mobilization have generally been dominated by individualism and the particularistic nature of demands, the design of participatory institutions is central as it can provide the incentives for collective forms of mobilization to emerge. Second, my findings highliPhotoRecife1_ok2ght the importance of going beyond a mere institutional analysis to look at the local sociopolitical context. The level of political competition, the balance of powers within civil society, and the perceptions state and social actors have of their own role in the participatory process are all factors that constrain and influence actors’ practices and underlying strategies in appropriating participatory mechanisms, thereby determining the level of autonomy participants enjoy within these institutions.

Current projects

  • Democratizing Democracy in the City? Participatory Budgeting, Urban Citizenship and Local Community-Building in Brazil (FQRSC Nouveauxchercheurs)
  • Participatory democracy, clientelism and collective actions (avec Camille Goirand)
  • Deliberation for Reconciliation: Aboriginals vs Local Communities in Canada (SSHRC Insight Development, with Dr. Magdalena Dembinska & Dr. Martin Papillon)

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