Marguerite Mendell


This article on empowerment focuses on the capacity of citizens to create new institutional spaces in which they play a decisive role in designing local development strategies by forming strategic alliances with various social actors, including the state. Drawing on the concept of empowered participatory governance developed by Erik Olin Wright and Archon Fung, the author distinguishes between citizen engagement as processes of public consultation (noise) and comprehensive community economic initiatives as sources of political and economic empowerment and institutional innovation (voice). The capacity of actors and networks to influence and transform state institutions to advance the public interest in Quebec over the last twenty years is an illustration of empowerment and social change. Although under researched and under theorized, many such pragmatic approaches in the North and the South are constructing an alternative paradigm of local governance and development and are contributing to renewing democratic practice.

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