alexa New Democratic Spaces at the Grassroots? Popular Participation in Latin American Local Governments
Social & Political Sciences

Social & Political Sciences

Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs

Author(s): Gerd Schnwlder

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This article sounds a note of caution with regard to the idea that political decentralization and increased popular participation, notably at the local level, could help consolidate fragile democratic regimes, and render their institutions both more efficient and more responsive to their constituents. Taking a review of two major strands of the decentralization literature as its starting point, the article shows that political decentralization often runs into bureaucratic obstacles and politically motivated resistance from local and other élites, and that locally based popular movements are frequently co-opted by other actors for their own ends. The author develops an ‘inventory’ of possible courses of action for locally based popular movements, arguing that their democratic potential may be best realized not by withdrawing from the institutional space altogether, but by taking advantage of existing possibilities to participate, while maximizing their influence and minimizing the risk of co-optation by striking alliances with a variety of other actors.

This article was published in Development and Change and referenced in Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs

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