This project asks: How was it that a participatory practice, originating in the demands of social movements in Brazil, came to fit within the prevailing neoliberal orthodoxy? It explores changes within both neoliberalism and the practice of Participatory Budgeting (PB) itself. It examines PB’s Brazilian origins and the ways in which the process, initially emerging from protest movements, became a formal institutional process and a feature of Brazil’s new democracy, post authoritarian
rule. It then explores developments in the process itself within Brazil, before examining its translation to the UK. PB in the UK is explored through an examination of the political climate into which it came to be deployed (i.e. Blair’s New Labour) and two concrete examples of the process (in Manton, Nottinghamshire and Tower Hamlets, London). It focuses on the way in which the discursive environment of operation (the context) impacts upon PB in terms of both its form and its potential. These explorations raise important questions about the roles and relationships of, and between, the state and the citizen in contemporary representative democracy. Arguing that context matters, it demonstrates ways in which an increase in participation may have a positive democratic impact, but this is not a given; an increase in participation may serve to either enhance or diminish democracy. This work makes use of policy analysis and field word. It uses the discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe as a theoretical guide and asks what can be learnt about PB’s journey, state/citizen roles and relationships, and the relationship between participation and democracy by using this particular theoretical lens.