The Contribution of Endogenous Factors to Conflicts in Citizen Participation
Citizen participation has long been a site of contestation (Arnstein, 1969, Susskind and Cruikshank, 1987). Processes of urban and spatial development are exemplars of this pattern (Verloo and Davis, 2021). Planning and implementation become sites of conflict as citizens, developers, NGOs, and businesses whose interests and priorities are at odds contend with each other to influence the shape and implementation of plans. Similar patterns characterize domains as diverse as nature conservation and renewable energy development. The organizations that represent the state have a complex role in these conflicts (Forester, 1987, 2017; Susskind, McKearnan, and Thomas-Larmer, 1999). In some cases, they are a party to the conflict – pushing for particular priorities and actions. In other cases they serve as a kind of referee, helping to sort out the conflict and find a way forward. The most complex cases confront state organizations with both sets of demands and the tensions they generate.
This picture captures many of the dynamics that drive policy conflict. It emphasizes the role and influence of exogenous factors –competing needs, interests, and priorities – in the incidence and development of policy conflicts. Upon closer inspection, however, contemporary policy conflicts reveal how these conflicts are also shaped by endogenous factors that are implicit in the processes that constitute and organize the participation of citizens and other stakeholders (Wolf and van Dooren, 2021; Laws and Forester (2015).
This paper will explore the contributions that these endogenous influences make on the basis of an analysis of cases of renewable energy development, urban development, and nature conservation in the Netherlands. The cases bring out the role that performative factors have in shaping how citizens and other stakeholders experience participation processes and respond to the opportunities and limits they encounter. These factors range from positioning, recognition, and relational development to complex emotional responses that combine grief and anxiety with anger. They also reveal how citizens expectations about democratic process have changed and what develops when there is a mismatch between their expectations and the commitments that get expressed in the actions of government agencies. Factors like trust become, in this view, not questions about organizations or individuals, but a feature of relationships that is always contingent, always in need of renewal, and always open to change.