What do we learn from politically engaged citizens concerning participatory tools and initiatives? A French perspective


  • OLLIER Claire


  • Participatory tools
  • Decision-making process on public policies
  • Citizen participation

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Participatory democracy lies in “the institutionalization of citizen participation in the implementation of public policies” (Blondiaux and Sintomer, 2002). Considered as an “indispensable ingredient for the good governance of territories and public affairs” (Raymond, 2009), it now constitutes an inescapable reality of the evolution of forms of governance. The dissemination of good practice guides, exemplary cases, benchmarking practices or instruments demonstrate the efforts undertaken by local elected officials to standardize participatory policies regardless of ideological variable (Mazeaud et Nonjon, 2018). Participatory initiatives allow the territories to benefit a certain reputation in the field, as illustrated by the example of the participatory budget in Porto Alegre. Yet, all the studies regarding representativeness of participating citizens in participatory policies exhibit that the multiplication of tools and initiatives does not mean an enlargement of the participants, their frequentation proving to be very unequal (Blondiaux, 2008; Nez and Talpin, 2010). Those studies indicate for the most part the reproduction of a “hidden quota” (Gaxie, 1987), an over-representation of certain categories of participants of participatory systems (Rui, 2004; Lefebvre, 2007) correlated with a difficulty of extending audiences to the most marginalized groups, the political problem remaining of a lack of consideration of popular demands (Blondiaux, 2008 ; Carrel, 2013; Gourgues and Mazeaud, 2018). Moreover, the political wish to consecrate the new political figure of the “ordinary citizen”, “the average citizen”, the neutral “profane” possessing a civic identity beyond partisan affiliations and traditional political divisions is very largely a matter of a political fiction according to academics (Blondiaux, 2007; Seguin, 2020). Indeed, participatory democracy is approved and experienced essentially by a public already strongly committed to politics: activists, syndicalists, attentive spectators of the political game with a good knowledge of these workings, who are often older, more masculine, better educated, richer and more satisfied with their living conditions than the average (Blondiaux, 2008).By taking the opposite view of representativeness, we administrate an online exploratory qualitative questionnaire with open questions targeting French politically engaged citizens on trade union, political or “Gilets jaunes” networks, free and willing to answer of the reasons why of deserting participatory initiatives. We recorded 76 answers.

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