‘Citizens’ participation’ is a fashionable political concept, but one that increasingly means all things to all people. It is time to reclaim ‘participation’ from those who would use it simply to legitimise existing political institutions. This issue of Eurotopia explores different models of participatory democracy in Europe.
Jeronimo Fernandez Cortes, 43, is a member of the Federación de Asociaciones Gitanas Calí (Federation of Gypsy Calí Associations), an organisation that is a participant in the Albacete Participation Forum.
In the era of globalisation, the steady removal of decision-making from democratic chambers by EU elites is serving as a blueprint for post-democratic governance around the world. Progressives must be ambitious and start putting forward ideas for a democratic world government as a viable alternative.
Anna Pizzo is a director of Carta (a partner in Eurotopia), and has been a councillor for three years in the Lazio region. Inspired by the experience of Porto Alegre, she has been working on ‘the borderline’ between the movements and the political institutions, in order to open up the Lazio regional council to the demands and pressures of the movements.
Building a real democracy in the face of corporate and financial power will require a rethinking of power and agency, unleashing the creative, experimental, knowledge-sharing and emancipatory approaches of social movements.
The massive concentration and growth of corporate power poses a major threat to what remains of public services, highlighting the ever-deepening crisis of democracy, and the urgent need for people to reclaim the state.
Everywhere – from Brazil to Britain, from Barcelona to Berlin – the reality behind the language of ‘participation’ is contested, complex and contradictory. To encourage and support participatory democracy, a political party has to lead processes of experimentation, critical reflection and challenge, through which people are able to educate themselves to become subjects and therefore knowing actors.