Controversies, Authority, and the Limits of Participation: Chicago's 49th Ward

Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Nicole Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article analyzes an innovative, and relatively successful, experience in Chicago: its participatory budgeting (PB) process. Treating it as process-in-the-making, we are attentive to moments of uncertainty and controversy over the first year of its development. As a process of direct democracy, PB is profoundly ambiguous: it is, in principle, open to all, but it has no way to adjudicate between different ways of knowing and making claims by technical experts, democratically elected office holders, and newly established neighborhood leaders. Because it is a bottom-up process that in principle does not privilege certain groups, it generates ambiguity over who gets to speak for and on behalf of the whole. In Chicago, each of these ambiguities generated controversies, which generated political talk that implied utopian alternatives that were then settled in ways that closed off these alternatives, in the end reinforcing the power of experts and revaluing the role of established community leaders against newcomers. We contend that the critical literature on participation should be more attentive to moments of conflict, ambiguity, and closure when the outlines of participatory processes are collectively produced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-325
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical and Legal Anthropology Review
Volume40
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

Fingerprint

participation
expert
leader
direct democracy
privilege
uncertainty
community
experience
Group

Keywords

  • citizenship
  • expertise
  • participation
  • urban politics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

Cite this

Controversies, Authority, and the Limits of Participation : Chicago's 49th Ward. / Baiocchi, Gianpaolo; Summers, Nicole.

In: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Vol. 40, No. 2, 01.11.2017, p. 311-325.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{9588602c8d284f48a03d84161273f026,
title = "Controversies, Authority, and the Limits of Participation: Chicago's 49th Ward",
abstract = "This article analyzes an innovative, and relatively successful, experience in Chicago: its participatory budgeting (PB) process. Treating it as process-in-the-making, we are attentive to moments of uncertainty and controversy over the first year of its development. As a process of direct democracy, PB is profoundly ambiguous: it is, in principle, open to all, but it has no way to adjudicate between different ways of knowing and making claims by technical experts, democratically elected office holders, and newly established neighborhood leaders. Because it is a bottom-up process that in principle does not privilege certain groups, it generates ambiguity over who gets to speak for and on behalf of the whole. In Chicago, each of these ambiguities generated controversies, which generated political talk that implied utopian alternatives that were then settled in ways that closed off these alternatives, in the end reinforcing the power of experts and revaluing the role of established community leaders against newcomers. We contend that the critical literature on participation should be more attentive to moments of conflict, ambiguity, and closure when the outlines of participatory processes are collectively produced.",
keywords = "citizenship, expertise, participation, urban politics",
author = "Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Nicole Summers",
year = "2017",
month = "11",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1111/plar.12222",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "40",
pages = "311--325",
journal = "PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review",
issn = "1081-6976",
publisher = "Wiley - VCH Verlag GmbH & CO. KGaA",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Controversies, Authority, and the Limits of Participation

T2 - Chicago's 49th Ward

AU - Baiocchi, Gianpaolo

AU - Summers, Nicole

PY - 2017/11/1

Y1 - 2017/11/1

N2 - This article analyzes an innovative, and relatively successful, experience in Chicago: its participatory budgeting (PB) process. Treating it as process-in-the-making, we are attentive to moments of uncertainty and controversy over the first year of its development. As a process of direct democracy, PB is profoundly ambiguous: it is, in principle, open to all, but it has no way to adjudicate between different ways of knowing and making claims by technical experts, democratically elected office holders, and newly established neighborhood leaders. Because it is a bottom-up process that in principle does not privilege certain groups, it generates ambiguity over who gets to speak for and on behalf of the whole. In Chicago, each of these ambiguities generated controversies, which generated political talk that implied utopian alternatives that were then settled in ways that closed off these alternatives, in the end reinforcing the power of experts and revaluing the role of established community leaders against newcomers. We contend that the critical literature on participation should be more attentive to moments of conflict, ambiguity, and closure when the outlines of participatory processes are collectively produced.

AB - This article analyzes an innovative, and relatively successful, experience in Chicago: its participatory budgeting (PB) process. Treating it as process-in-the-making, we are attentive to moments of uncertainty and controversy over the first year of its development. As a process of direct democracy, PB is profoundly ambiguous: it is, in principle, open to all, but it has no way to adjudicate between different ways of knowing and making claims by technical experts, democratically elected office holders, and newly established neighborhood leaders. Because it is a bottom-up process that in principle does not privilege certain groups, it generates ambiguity over who gets to speak for and on behalf of the whole. In Chicago, each of these ambiguities generated controversies, which generated political talk that implied utopian alternatives that were then settled in ways that closed off these alternatives, in the end reinforcing the power of experts and revaluing the role of established community leaders against newcomers. We contend that the critical literature on participation should be more attentive to moments of conflict, ambiguity, and closure when the outlines of participatory processes are collectively produced.

KW - citizenship

KW - expertise

KW - participation

KW - urban politics

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85033778144&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85033778144&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/plar.12222

DO - 10.1111/plar.12222

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85033778144

VL - 40

SP - 311

EP - 325

JO - PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

JF - PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

SN - 1081-6976

IS - 2

ER -