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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 3: Participatory budgeting as a democratic innovation: Origins, expansion and limits

Promises and Limits of Democratic Participation in Latin America

Leonardo Avritzer

Extract

Participatory budgeting (PB) is the most important democratic innovation that emerged in the developing world during the third wave of democratization. The chapter evaluates participatory budgeting according to three criteria: (1) budget-making, (2) deliberative institutions and (3) citizen education. It shows that the most successful experiences that emerged during the 1990s in Brazil – Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte – meet the three criteria. Based on these elements the chapter looks at the success and failure of the diffusion of PB. It looks at two contrasting cases in Brazil: the cases of São Paulo and Recife, and shows how the different positon of the political system in relation to participation generated success or failures in these two cases. Based on the two Brazilian cases two cases in Argentina, Buenos Aires and Rosário, are explored. The experiences of the two cities were radically different. Buenos Aires was a very politicized trajectory highly dependent of the Kirchnerismo that in the end opted to discontinue PB. Rosário was an experience that grew as mayors of the Socialist Party decided to empower grassroots structures of participation. PB in Argentina reproduced similar successes and failures to PB Brazil, inferring that the results of PB are not specific to a country but are more general to PB as a participatory innovation. Buenos Aires seems to be a case very similar to São Paulo. Thus, the two Argentinian cases together with the cases of São Paulo and Recife established a pattern of success and failure. This pattern implies that in order to be successful PB needs to achieve centrality in budgeting-making and be capable of redefining the city in participatory terms. The chapter shows how these criteria differentiated Recife and Rosario from São Paulo and Buenos Aires.

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