New Public Spheres in Brazil: Local Democracy and Deliberative Politics


Brazilian cities have been the sites of significant experiments in participatory and deliberative governance. Participatory budgeting has to be singled out as one of the most important of these. After the landmark experience in Porto Alegre, participatory budgeting has been expanded to 170 Brazilian cities. Is the expansion of participatory budgeting equivalent to the expansion of the deliberative and distributive characteristics of the Porto Alegre experience? This article argues that the conditions that account for the emergence of participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre are unique to that city’s social or political characteristics. It focuses on the role of existing civil society associations in the emergence of participatory budgeting, as well as in its institutional format. It also shows that the presence of civic associations is linked to the deliberative and distributive results of participatory budgeting and that these conditions may not be present in other participatory budgeting experiences.