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Journal Article

Knowledge Acquisition and Meaning‑making in the Participatory Budgeting of Local Governments  pp149-160

Evandro Bocatto, Eloisa Perez-de-Toledo

© Apr 2020 Volume 18 Issue 2, Editor: Eduardo Tome, pp91 - 197

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The participatory budgeting of Brazilian municipalities is one of the most publicized examples of democracy‑in‑action that fosters citizenship knowledge acquisition in local government. This research adds two new perspectives to the participatory process. The first one demonstrates how knowledge is acquired and shared, and which are the new contextual conditions for this acquisition to happen, which we call, the knowledge acquisition process. At second, we explain the meaning‑making process as a subjective way to acquire knowledge about oneself, the others, and the democratic systems. Citizens, public servants, policy‑makers, and politicians acquire new meanings for the role they play in local government and become reengaged on democracy through the ontological change from representative to participatory and deliberative democracy. In this qualitative research, our methodological bricolage relies on the triangulation of methods (i.e. documentation review and observations of behaviors and procedures; in‑depth‑interviews; and, focus groups) and sources (i.e. comparison of cases, and stakeholders). The bricolage deconstructs these social actions on their constituents, vis‑a‑vis hidden intentions; instruments; and, implementation. Among the several Brazilian cases, this longitudinal study (i.e. 12 years) concentrates on five of them. Our findings suggest that the participation in the process allows for a change on individuals’ understanding of democracy, enhances citizenship knowledge acquisition, reframes the meaning of citizenship, and improves the quality of relationships among the stakeholders involved. In the participatory budgeting, citizens learn, what critical theory calls “to emancipate”. They act as if they were members of an ideal kingdom of ends in which they were both subjects and sovereigns at the same time, which guarantees citizenship engagement, learning and development.


Keywords: : participatory budgeting, citizenship knowledge acquisition, citizenship meaning-making, local government, critical-emancipatory reasoning


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