The book “Participatory Budgeting in Europe – Democracy and public governance”, written by Yves Sintomer, Anja Röck and Carsten Herzberg, aims to provide “the first comprehensive analysis of participatory budgeting in Europe and the effect it has had on democracy, the modernisation of local government, social justice, gender mainstreaming and sustainable development”.
Divided into three parts, the book first of all analyses the context in which European participatory budgets emerged and then focuses on twenty concrete examples. The final part focuses on managerial, political and social aspects.
“A discontent in democracy”
The participatory instruments and the increase of citizen participation are linked to many forms of discontent in democracy, the authors note in the introduction. “A significant trend has emerged in the past decades, characterised by increased calls for citizen participation in public policy, closer relations between users and managers and increased dialogue between the institutional political system and the rest of the population,” they write.
But “participatory budgeting is distinct from other new participatory instruments because of both its rapid spread and the political reaction it produced”, the authors explain.
Supported by concrete examples in global cities, the book shows how the participatory budget concept and mechanisms emerged, starting in Porto Allegro and spreading to many cities in the world. But “a cursory examination of the development of this process in Europe appears to yield a diversity that makes it very difficult to reach any overall conclusion”, the authors say.
This book is therefore trying to give answers to many questions, because “we believe that the assessment of participatory budgets can contribute to establish a vision of the similarities and difference between the political cultures, legal framework and institutional contexts of different European countries that is both all-encompassing and detailed”.