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State-Society Synergy And The Problems Of Participation In Porto Alegre

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Chapter Summary

Proposals for direct citizen participation in government decision-making have a long history in both political theory and policy practice. Political theory has long examined citizen participation in governing from the perspective of empowerment. A collection of contributions edited by Evans (1996) similarly focuses on 'state-society synergy'. Under certain conditions, a virtuous circle can occur where state programmes promote strong civic associations, which in turn promote strong state programmes. Porto Alegre's model of citizen participation in budgeting included a complex array of different types of forums. Neighbourhood meetings set basic priorities for community level infrastructure. Broader districtwide assemblies elect delegates from each neighbourhood. The author identifies four 'degrees' of citizen control: Where Bottom-Up Decisions Were Final, Where Bottom-Up Decisions Were 'Negotiated' with Government, Where Participants Approved Complex Government Proposals, Where Government Claimed Veto Power.

Keywords: budget policy; citizen control; citizen participation; empowerment perspective; Porto Alegre; Regional Forums; state-society synergy; Veto Power



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