This paper provides a framework for classifying and analyzing participatory institutions in Latin America. It argues that participatory institutions are best categorized according to the following dimensions: the governmental level at which they are implemented (municipal, state/provincial/regional or national levels), whether the decisions they take are binding or consultative, whether participation is open to all citizens or restricted to a subset of the community, and finally the extent to which the institution is implemented across a given country. After providing a critical overview of existing attempts to conceptualize participatory institutions and offering a new, alternative framework, it offers an overview of participatory institutions in Latin America. Finally, it uses this framework to take a closer look at the empirical range of one critical participatory institution, binding participatory institutions. The framework developed in the paper can be of use to scholars of participatory institutions who strive both for greater precision in the identification of the causes and effects of different types of participatory institutions, as well as those who seek to better understand the conditions under which participatory institutions meaningfully impact political and social outcomes. It can also be useful for empirical work on deliberative democracy, which has struggled to demonstrate the broader political impact of deliberative democratic innovations such as mini-publics.
Why are participatory institutions implemented nationwide in some countries but only adopted on paper in others? I argue that the national-scale implementation of a critical subtype of participatory institutions, Binding Participatory Institutions (BPIs) --is dependent upon the backing of a strong institutional supporter, normally a political party. In turn, I argue political parties will only implement BPIs nationwide when they perceive an electoral benefit from doing so. This occurs when 1) significant societal demand exists for BPIs, and 2), the party’s political opponents are not capable of taking advantage of BPIs for their own electoral gain. Under these conditions, parties will place a lower value on the political costs than on the potential benefits of BPI implementation. I test this theory through two detailed case studies of Venezuela and Ecuador, drawing upon a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data, including 159 interviews with key national-level actors and grassroots activists involved in the adoption and implementation of BPIs in these countries.
The aim of this chapter is to more systematically examine the relationship between left government and citizenship expansion during the Left turn. What general claims can we make about the extent of citizenship extension, or about the left’s impact on citizenship extension, over the past two decades? We address these questions by taking up the following questions: (1) Do citizenship regimes now reach traditionally excluded sectors to a greater extent than they did prior to the Left turn? And (2) what are the legacies of the Left turn in Latin America? In answering the first question, we provide a framework for assessing citizenship extension by disaggregating citizenship into three dimensions: (1) liberal democratic rights, which combine Marshall’s (1950) civil and political rights; (2) social rights, and (3) active citizenship, or participatory rights. For each dimension we develop a set of indicators that can be measured to yield yearly country-level scores assessing the extent to which the extension of each set of rights has occurred across Latin America during the Left turn. We find a marked expansion of citizenship rights along all three dimensions during the Left turn. On two dimensions—social and participatory rights—the degree of rights extension was greater under countries under left-of-center governments than under those governed by the right (though only slightly greater in the case of participatory rights). In the aggregate, however, we find no significant difference in rights extension between countries governed by the left and those governed by the right. Radical left-driven rights expansion on the social and participatory dimensions is effectively canceled out by the erosion of liberal democratic rights.
With Venezuela’s Chavista political movement battling to keep its grassroots participatory experiments alive amid a cataclysmic economic depression, we have a new crucial case for assessing the evolution and continuation of participatory institutions under left-wing populist governments. Based on original recent survey data, we marshal evidence to show that the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela’s (PSUV) use of grassroots participation to defend the Maduro regime has weakened the quality of community-level participation, just as it may have lengthened the life-span of Chavismo’s most important and expansive participatory institution, the Communal Councils—the main phenomenon we document here. The continuation of the Councils, despite a massive economic contraction, defies expectations that the groups would disappear when conditions became considerably less favorable than during the economic boom that existed during their 2006-2008 launch. It also raises crucial questions about the power politics dimensions of grassroots-level mobilization, an aspect of participatory democracy that scholars have too often neglected.
The Chávez government introduced a ‘Bolivarian’ national curriculum to promote radically different understandings of Venezuelan history and identity. We place the fate of this reform initiative within the broader study of state formation and nationalism. Scholars have long identified mass schooling as the key institution for socialising citizens and cultivating national loyalties, and many states have attempted to alter the nationalist content of schooling with these ends in mind. Venezuela constitutes an ideal case for identifying the specific conditions under which transformations of official national ideologies do and do not gain broader resonance. Using evidence derived from textbook analysis and semi-structured interviews with educational officials and teachers in Caracas, we highlight a new argument, showing that intrastate tensions between the central government and teachers, heightened by a well-established cultural machinery and by teachers’ increasing exclusion from the Chavista political coalition, explain the limited success in government efforts to implement Bolivarian nationalism through the school curriculum.