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Title: "Ahora tienen que escucharnos" (now they have to listen to us) : actors' understanding and meanings of planning practices in Venezuela's participatory democracy
Author: Martin, Graham
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 8278
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2015
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Since the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998, Venezuela has undergone considerable constitutional and legislative reforms to establish a more participatory form of democracy. Two of Chavismo’s mechanisms for citizen participation form the units of analysis of the thesis: consejos locales de planificación publica (CLPPs) and consejos comunales (CCs). These sought to bring citizen participation into public policy and planning at the municipal and neighbourhood levels, respectively. The thesis draws from democratic and planning theories, engaging with debates in the literature regarding participation and the issues of bringing democratic innovations into representative democratic systems and planning practices and processes. The thesis responds to a gap in the literature regarding how actors involved in CLPPs and CCs understand these instances of participation. The thesis adopted a constructivist approach involving components drawn from new institutionalism (Lowndes and Roberts 2013) and Bevir and Rhodes’ (2012) strand of interpretivism into an analytical model that Hay (2011) coins ‘interpretive institutionalism’. The thesis elicited the meanings and understandings of citizen participation in local policy making and planning processes held by participants of CLPPs and CCs. Such accounts enabled an analysis of what participatory democracy meant to those active in the processes seeking to establish it. Data collection involved 10 months of fieldwork in two municipalities (Chacao and Libertador) in Caracas including semi-structured interviews with CLPP and CC participants; observation of CLPP and CC participants; and review of corresponding municipal documents, academic literature, and news articles. The findings show that participation was widely advocated by CLPP and CC participants. Ideological/ political beliefs and traditions shaped a) the different ways CLPP members (politician versus community members) conceived participation, and b) CC participants’ understanding of state-civil society relationships. The thesis provides a contribution to democratic theory by providing further insights about the challenges in designing, implementing and embedding mechanisms involving citizen participation, particularly the tensions between representative and participatory forms of democracy. Secondly, by operationalizing Hay’s (2011) interpretive institutionalist model in the Latin American socio-economic context, the thesis showed that marrying constructivist approaches to institutionalism and bringing institutionalist dimensions to interpretivism provide valuable analytical and theoretical insights. Furthermore, the findings enabled an additional link between the interpretive and institutionalist dimensions of Hay’s model to be identified.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Cardiff Business School
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: G Geography (General)