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The effects of economic crises on participatory democracy

This paper examines the impact of economic conditions on participatory democracy

Paper by

Pau Alarcón, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain

Carol Galais, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

Joan Font, Institute of Advanced Social Studies (IESA_CSIC), Cordoba, Spain

Graham Smith, University of Westminster, UK

This paper examines the impact of economic conditions on participatory democracy. It analyses whether economic crises affect the types of proposals that emerge from local participatory processes and the fate of these proposals. Focusing on more than 500 proposals that emerged from 34 participatory processes in Spain between 2007 and 2011, our study covers a period which straddles the emergence of severe economic problems resulting from the global financial crisis. Applying four different but complementary analytical strategies, we find two types of effects. First, proposals made during the crisis period were less costly though more challenging. Second, local governments implemented a smaller proportion of the proposals that were put forward by the public. These findings suggest that external economic shocks reduce the ability of governments to respond to the demands of citizens, but that citizens also recalibrate their expectations in response to austerity.

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