Participation: the ascendancy of a buzzword in the neo-liberal era
Participation was originally conceived as part of a counter-hegemonic approach to radical social transformation and, as such, represented a challenge to the status quo. Paradoxically, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, ‘participation’ gained legitimacy within the institutional development world to the extent of achieving buzzword status. The precise manipulations required to convert a radical proposal into something that could serve the neo-liberal world order led to participation’s political decapitation. Reduced to a series of methodological packages and techniques, participation would slowly lose its philosophical and ideological meaning. In order to make the approach and methodology serve counter-hegemonic processes of grassroots resistance and transformation, these meanings desperately need to be recovered. This calls for participation to be re-articulated within broader processes of social and political struggle in order to facilitate the recovery of social transformation in the world of twenty-first century capitalism.
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