Stanford University Press has recently published Popular Democracy. The Paradox of Participation. This book, written by Gianpaolo Baiocchi, associate professor of individualized studies and sociology at New York University, and Ernesto Ganuza, scientist at the Institute for Advanced Social Studies, shows local participation as the new democratic imperative. In the United States, three-fourths of all cities have developed opportunities for citizen involvement in strategic planning. The World Bank has invested $85 billion over the last decade to support community participation worldwide. But even as these opportunities have become more popular, many contend that they have also become less connected to actual centers of power and the jurisdictions where issues relevant to communities are decided.
With this book, Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Ernesto Ganuza consider the opportunities and challenges of democratic participation. Examining how one mechanism of participation has traveled the world—with its inception in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and spread to Europe and North America—they show how participatory instruments have become more focused on the formation of public opinion and are far less attentive to, or able to influence, actual reform. Though the current impact and benefit of participatory forms of government is far more ambiguous than its advocates would suggest, Popular Democracy concludes with suggestions of how participation could better achieve its political ideals.
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