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The various faces of place-based local initiatives: versions of subpolitics in the making?

Buizer, M. (2008) The various faces of place-based local initiatives: versions of subpolitics in the making? In: “Analysing Collaborative and Deliberative Forms of Governance” Workshop, 14 November, Canberra, ACT, Australia



Governments nowadays rather often organize events to invite public participation in public policy making, and researchers develop theories and do empirical studies as to how this is or should be done. But citizens, societal organizations, private enterprise or combinations of these also attempt to influence policy making at their own time, regarding their own ‘place’, and on their own conditions. While Beck stated in the 1990s that society is increasingly being shaped from below and from outside the representative institutions of the formal political system, which he summarized by the term ‘subpolitics’, he did not particularly direct his thesis at small-scale initiatives for specific places. The latter task is the subject of this paper. To uncover in what sense present day local initiatives could be characterized as ‘subpolitical’, it is suggested that exploring the interconnections between discourses and institutional practices may be a particularly fruitful way. By means of qualitative analysis of three private initiatives, in three specific Dutch places, and particularly by studying what exactly happens in their interactions with ‘established’ policies, different versions of subpolitics are uncovered: more open or more closed versions, and versions which can be distinguished on the basis of whether discursive change goes together with a change of institutional practices or not.

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