Beyond Inclusion: Critical Race Theory and Participatory Budgeting

Paper by Celina Su


Celina Su (2017) Beyond Inclusion: Critical Race Theory and Participatory Budgeting, New Political Science, 39:1, 126-142, DOI: 10.1080/07393148.2017.1278858 

Abstract: Critical Race Theory (CRT) researchers maintain that mainstream liberal discourses of neutrality and colorblindness inherently reify existing patterns of inequality, and that privileging the voices of people of color and the marginalized is essential to addressing issues of equity and equality. Participatory budgeting (PB) aims, too, to include the voices of the marginalized in substantive policymaking. Through a CRT lens, I examine the ways in which the New York City PB process has thus far worked to simultaneously disrupt and maintain racial hierarchies. I pay particular attention to how social constructions of the “good project” shape the discourses around community priorities and winning projects—especially in the areas of security/policing and education. While the New York PB process has successfully reached out to and effectively enfranchised traditionally marginalized constituents, including communities of color, its current focus on districts and the voting phase, alongside limited work on critical praxis, limits the extent to which these newly enfranchised constituents can problematize larger funding formulas and criteria in public budgets.

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