Gianpaolo Baiocchi. Democracy in Motion: Participatory Blueprints and the New Spirit of Governance

Monday, February 10, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

Democracy in Motion: Participatory Blueprints and the New Spirit of Governance.

The presentation will discuss one of the chapters of a forthcoming book on the travels of participatory blueprints in our current moment, taking the example of participatory budgeting.   From its inception in Brazil in the late 1980s, Participatory Budgeting has now been instituted in over 1500 cities worldwide. This talk examines what travels under the name of Participatory Budgeting. The principal argument is that for the idea to travel it became detached from the administrative reforms and political project of which it was a part. Originally established by a leftist city government, Participatory Budgeting was part of an ambitious project of reforms of the municipal administration that also included significant transformations in administrative practices and structures. It succeeded, and became emblematic of a kind of successful leftism that was then adapted throughout Brazil and Latin America. In the late 1990s, however, it was adopted in a format that reduced it to procedures divorced from administration and political project. This talk describes the way this was taken up by actors from all ends of the political spectrum in its more reduced form.  

Gianpaolo Baiocchi, associate professor of individualized studies and sociology at NYU, is a sociologist and an ethnographer interested in questions of politics and culture, critical social theory, and cities. He has written about and continues to research instances of actually existing civic life and participatory democracy. While much of his research and writing has been about Brazil, his most recent book, The Civic Imagination  (co-authored with Elizabeth Bennett, Alissa Cordner, Stephanie Savell, and Peter Klein) examines the contours and limits of the democratic conversation in the US today. His most recent research, with Ernesto Ganuza, has been about the global travel and translation of blueprints of urban participation in the current era. An engaged scholar, Gianpaolo was one of the founders of the Participatory Budgeting Project and continues to work with groups improving urban democracy.  At NYU he directs a new initiative, the Urban Democracy Lab.