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Is participation always participatory? Differentiating participation from inclusion, contribution, representation and orientation

Rolf Rauschenbach
Universität St Gallen
Rolf Rauschenbach
Universität St Gallen
Open Panel

Abstract

Problem: The traditional representative democracy faces increasingly problems such as declining levels of electoral participation and disillusioned citizens. To remedy this situation, new types of political participation emerge and are being applauded. So far, it is unclear, how new these seemingly new types are and what the consequence of these new practices will be. The main question this paper addresses is: After all, what is participation in the first place? If we view participation as a specific way in which citizens relate to each other and to the state – what would be the other fundamental modes of relationships? What can we learn from them when thinking about participation? Method: The questions raised in this paper are addressed by critically reviewing the classical literature of institutionalism in order to condense a framework of the different types of relationships between the citizens and the State. In addition, a number of case studies of new and traditional (participatory) institutions are being presented. Result: The study results in a framework of five fundamental relationships between the citizens and the State: inclusion, contribution, representation, participation, and orientation. This framework allows qualifying the new types of participation in a non-dichotomous fashion. Furthermore, this framework draws attention to the fact, that participatory mechanisms alone are not able to fundamentally improve the relationship between the citizens and the State, as the other four types play an important (and often negative) role too.