Accepted paper:

Participatory democracy as a 'social drama': deconstructing public involvement procedures in Swedish city renewal

Author:

Annelie Sjölander-Lindqvist (University of Gothenburg)

Paper short abstract:

Participatory democracy provides rhetorical and symbolic arenas. Besides that economy, politics, media, regulation, and legal aspects, exert influence on planning processes, the foundations of social and cultural identity also become integrated parts of decision-making procedures.

Paper long abstract:

Approaches designed to stimulate public involvement and public consultation in social planning relates to the international discourse on governance: integrating government sectors and increasing public participation are seen as the key to sustainable development and reviving local politics. However, the inclusion of citizens in planning practices, such as urban renewal and community planning, are beset with complexity and uncertainty. Observations and interviews in city planning in the south of Sweden illustrate that state/city administered contexts for the publics' participation in planning procedures and decision-making involve the interplay between the public and various administrative levels that are underpinned by social, cultural and historical contexts. Participatory democracy provides rhetorical and symbolic arenas. Besides that economy, politics, media, regulation, and legal aspects, exert influence on planning processes, the foundations of social and cultural identity (besides the aforementioned also history, collective memory, place and landscape) also become integrated parts of decision-making procedures. The formalisation of participatory democracy can be said to be a sequence of social events (Turner 1974), a 'social drama' where messages regarding the past, the present and the future are propagated. This study illustrates that procedures for public participation are highly ritualized and embedded with social and cultural understandings of place and landscape and how participants' roles and positions within the planning process are symbolically informed.

panel W003
Towards an anthropology of decision making