Governance and Democracy katarsis survey Paper



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CAHIERS DU CRISES 

 COLLECTION ÉTUDES THÉORIQUES 



 NO 


ET0908 

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Finally, the dialectical relationship between agency and structure points to another important 

issue as well: strategies that set out to better include a group of excluded people without taking 

into account the excluding structures risk redistributing instead of eliminating exclusion 

because “[i]n the absence of changes to the rules by which we trade and govern, the process of 

including some will almost inevitably exclude others” (Labonte 2004: 120). 

In the following paragraphs we will describe three generic examples of socially creative 

strategies to combat exclusionary dynamics, two concerning the process dimension 

(participatory governance and the rights discourse) and one focusing on the content dimension 

(citizen’s governance). 



Participatory governance, through which active citizens are encouraged to participate in 

discussions concerning possible actions by the state, has gained in importance during recent 

years. Within the large field of participatory democracy, there are many different approaches, 

“where two crucial political choices have to be made with regard to who has the right to 

participate and what the decision-making rules will be” (Grote/Gbikpi 2002: 21). In contrast to 

the model of majoritarian indirect democracy, “participatory governance is definitely less a 

matter of democracy in the sense of institutionalizing a set of procedures for electing those in 

charge of the policy-making, than it is a kind of second best solution for approaching the 

question of effective participation of the persons likely to be affected by the policies designed” 

(Gbikpi/Grote 2002: 23). Participation is an important field for innovative practices 

concerning the public character of the state, especially as it can go as far as to question the 

bureaucratic character of the state apparatus: according to Erik Swyngedouw (2005: 1993), it 

is “one of the key terrains on which battles over the form of governance and the character of 

regulation are currently being fought out”. 

An important question in the field of participation concerns who should participate and who 

actually does participate. The decision concerning who should participate is itself already 

quite complex and potentially problematic (Who has the right to decide who is “interested” 

and thus should participate? Which criteria should be used?), but the actual participation of the 

relevant actors is even more difficult to achieve. This is especially relevant when talking about 

social exclusion as excluded people often encounter various barriers to participation and thus 

risk being subjected to patronising top-down initiatives. This difficulty can be summed up in a 

simple paradox, namely that “[p]articipation is required to ensure that local people are 

included in policy action and yet the long-term aim of the policy action is the social inclusion 

of marginalized individuals and communities” (Alcock 2006: 245). Those crucial political 

choices are often made in a top-down fashion by government officials, who only invite the 



GOVERNANCE AND DEMOCRACY 

 KATARIS PROJECT



 

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relevant stakeholders for a given policy field. Political relevance and representation is 

attributed to the “possession of some quality or resource relevant to the substance of the 

problem that has to be solved” (Gbikpi/Grote 2002: 21). The decisions on which features are 

considered as relevant and on who recognised as possessing them leaves much scope of 

discretion and risks thus to be taken arbitrarily if not even consciously one-sidedly. This 

excludes large parts of the population from the decision making process. Nevertheless, 

participatory governance offers new possibilities to foster the political – and in some cases 

also the socio-economic – participation of formerly excluded groups.  

Another quite promising socially creative approach is the strategic use of the discourse of 



rights. According to Brown it seems that “it is the clash of rights that provides the 

communicative medium through which social change takes place” (Brown 1992: 24). Thus, 

the discourse of rights is probably a good medium to challenge the established order – a 

strategy successfully employed by diverse social movements in the 1960s and 1970s 

(Bowles/Gintis 1986; Brown 1992). This discourse also forms an important element of the 

concept of citizenship, which expressed the claims of the social movements for political and 

social rights in the democratization processes of Latin America during the 1980s (Alvarez et 

al. 1998) and is also important for European cities (García 2006). Thus, a strategy of enforcing 

equal rights is an important element to consider when thinking about socially creative 

strategies. Thus, the transformation of civil rights into political rights and finally into social 

rights between the 18

th

 and the 20



th

 centuries, which historically culminated in the 

establishment of the welfare state (cf. Marshall 1950) is an important element to consider 

when thinking about social inclusion. 

Concerning citizenship, important contradictions with some of the proposed socially 

innovative strategies occur, which have to do with the employment of the concept of 



communitarianism (Etzioni 1994; 1998; Fyfe 2005; Defilippis et al. 2006). In a positive sense, 

it empowers the third sector to play a more important role in governance settings, the social 

economy is expanded, and an emphasis on social cohesion leads to initiatives such as the 

movements for a solidarity based economy, Fair Trade, a citizen’s wage, etc. Contradictions to 

socially inclusive strategies occur, if communitarian tendencies counterpose the idea of 

citizenship and the according rights. Sandy Hager (2006) identifies communitarian citizenship 

as a third way strategy to implement what he calls “embedded neoliberalism”, where citizens 

are no longer treated as social beings as in traditional social democratic conceptions of the 

welfare state or as rational individuals as a strict liberal understanding would imply, but as 

ethic individuals. In such a setting, responsibilities can be outsourced from the state to 

communities. This reinforces tendencies towards unpaid work, mainly being done by women 





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