26 May 2009

Call for Chapters: Local Democracy in Latin American Cities


We are seeking contributions for an edited volume focusing on experiences with local democracy in Latin American cities.

The book will address the subject of local democracy in Latin America, and more specifically the impact of participatory mechanisms at city level on intergovernmental relations, on public policymaking, on citizens’ empowerment and on the process of democratization itself. From the highly centralized government structures imposed during colonial times to the centralization and authoritarianism that prevailed during most of the 20th century, Latin American countries are now experiencing the emergence of local power, a consequence of democratization, and the process of political, administrative and fiscal decentralization. Legitimized by the popular vote with the enhanced autonomy to manage finances (due to constitutional transfers of funds and the freedom to create local taxes), mayors now have more prominence in national politics and subsequently municipal governments have more voice and resources to shape the development process.
Along with the strengthening of municipal governments, Latin Americans have witnessed, at the city level, the emergence of a variety of mechanisms intended to involve the population in the formation of local public policies. Thus, in many Latin American cities and towns, residents have now more channels of participation through participatory budgets, neighborhood councils, assemblies of citizens and other social movements that seek to intervene in the local decision-making process. In some cases, these citizens’ interventions are sponsored by local governments as the case of the participatory budgeting in the capital city, Porto Alegre, Brazil, where successive mayors promoted participatory budgeting, by allocating City Hall resources to assure the viability of the process.
While it is possible to assert that the empowerment of municipal governments and the popular participation in politics are, in principle, important steps to strengthen democracy, there is the need of a more encompassing vision of the change taking place in Latin America.

We are looking for chapters that take a theoretical or policy-oriented approach to the issue. Tentative chapter themes are:
Can we measure the impact of local democracy on the political development of Latin American countries? In other words, has participatory processes at city level contributed to the reduction of the democratic deficit in the region? What is the evidence in this regard?
Has local democracy - understood here as legitimate municipal governments with greater autonomy and citizen participation - contributed to a better provision of public services in Latin American cities? Case studies are encouraged.
Has participatory processes at the local level made a contribution to citizens’ empowerment? What evidence do we have to measure the empowerment?
What is the impact of local democracy in intergovernmental relations, i.e. relations between the central government, the provinces (states) and municipalities? In what measure popular organized interventions (participatory budgeting, neighborhood councils, assemblies of citizens) are in conflict with the institutions of representative democracy (city councils)?
What is the role played by international organizations in the process of strengthening local democracies in Latin America?
Is the emerging democracy and planning mechanisms in the urban areas of Latin America fostering a strategic planning environment that is differing significantly from the top down governing policies in its past?
Do the models of participatory and 'bottom-up” democracy being developed in urban areas in Latin America provide a model for other developing countries?
The goal is to advance the discussion of democratization in Latin America, focusing on the confluence between city governments’ actions and society participation. Our aim is to go beyond the description of cases or have simply an opinion: rather, we seek to obtain a rigorous analysis of each experience, in an attempt to determine the nature and consequences of this political change in the region. The cases should offer elements to establish similarities and variances regarding the scope of local democracies in Latin America – in some instances deep, in some instances incipient; the cases should demonstrate the different dimensions of local democracy across the region, and should reveal the varied impacts of local democracy on the countries under study. All case studies will be based on the methods of the social sciences inquiry – that is – establishing relationships between conditions and outcomes.

The Process:
The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2009
A chapter should consist of no more than 20,000 words, including text, endnotes, list of references, maps and graphs.
Language: Preferably in English. Texts in Spanish or Portuguese will also be considered.
APA citation format
Chapters will be selected through a blind review system
Please send chapter and vita to the editors:

Ivani Vassoler (ivani.vassoler@fredonia.edu)

Michael McAdams (mcadams@faith.edu.tr)

Ivani Vassoler, Ph.D., Political Science
Coordinator, International Studies Academic Program
State University of New York
Fredonia, New York 14063 USA

Michael McAdams, Ph.D., Urban Geography
Geography Department
Fatih University
34500 Büyükçekmece
Istanbul Turkey

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