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The Two Faces of Institutional Innovation

Promises and Limits of Democratic Participation in Latin America

Leonardo Avritzer

This book evaluates democratic innovations to allow a full analysis of the different practices that have emerged recently in Latin America. These innovations, often viewed in a positive light by a large section of democratic theorists, engendered the idea that all innovations are democratic and all democratic innovations are able to foster citizenship – a view challenged by this work. The book also evaluates the expansion of innovation to the field of judicial institutions. It will benefit democratic theorists by presenting a realistic analysis of the positive and negative aspects of democratic innovation.
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Chapter 2: A second source of innovation: Critical public policy

Promises and Limits of Democratic Participation in Latin America

Leonardo Avritzer

Extract

Chapter 2 is an attempt to bridge the critical theory debate with the critical public policy debate. Critical public policy is a second source of institutional innovation that has independent but parallel origins in relation to the critical theory debate. Critical public policy is also a reaction against important assumptions of the Weberian theoretical framework. The critique of the Weberian view on innovation comes from a different theoretical perspective, namely, through a critique of technicians and professionals’ capacity to handle social reality without the input of social actors. Chapter 2 shows the road that connects the Weberian critique of technical knowledge with participatory public policy. It shows that democratic innovation, as defined earlier, is the capacity of the state to process input by the citizenship in different ways or institutional formats. The different designs that deepen democracy are linked to processes of democratization. The chapter outlines three types of democratic innovations in Latin America that will be discussed in Chapters 3, 4 and 5. The first is innovation linked to participatory accountability. The most important cases of innovation in accountability and transparency in Latin America are: policy councils in Brazil, comités de vigilancia in Bolivia and citizen councillors in Mexico. All three cases share the same characteristics, namely, the attempt to create institutions that follow a citizenship logic and are partially disconnected from the electoral system and its cycle of change. The second democratic innovation is ‘co-deliberation interface’. The co-deliberation interface is the most recent but also the most discussed. Participatory budgeting in Brazil and Argentina are the best examples of such mechanisms. The third democratic innovation is administrative/judicial. Administrative innovation can potentially function as an interface between the state and civil society. Unlike the types of innovation defined earlier, administrative innovation is centred on the de-politicization of public administration. There is no problem with administrative innovation but there is a problem when administrative innovation is justified in terms of democratic deepening. I will analyse the Brazilian and the Colombian Supreme Courts in this perspective.

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