Participatory Budgeting in Italy: An Analysis of (Almost Democratic) Participatory Governance Arrangements


This article addresses definitory problems concerning participatory budgeting (PB), the purpose being to underline the governance nature of this instrument. More specifically, considering PB as a particular type of participatory governance arrangement, it focuses on the democratic outcomes of concrete experiences. Adopting the Dahlian process‐oriented concept of democracy, three Italian cases are depicted and analysed, according to four critical variables: inclusion, participation, the role of the opposition, and transparency. This enables full description of how PB affects local democracy, both positively and negatively. The article concludes by highlighting two variables that give account of the democratic implications of these practices: the role of the political leadership, and the inclusive strategy adopted. Further, it underlines three additional factors that embody what is commonly referred to as political investment in public–private partnerships: an active role for the opposition, outward communication, and effective participation. While assessing the democratic outcomes, the study highlights how the presence and maintenance of these practices are linked to the role played by civil society and the presence of administrative ties.