Participatory Publics: Civil Society and New Institutions in Democratic Brazil

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Brazil is home to some of the most successful experiences in participatory local government. The proliferation of civil society organizations in Brazil during the transition to democratic rule was accompanied by the development of new political values and strategies that fostered institutional renewal at the municipal level. Brazil's 1988 constitution decentralized political authority, thereby granting municipal administrations sufficient resources and political independence to restructure policymaking processes. Coalitions of civil society organizations and political reformers have taken advantage of this flexibility to experiment with new institutional types. The political strategies of civil society organizations are often driven by the need to find immediate solutions to dire social problems and by a broader interest in increasing the access of ordinary citizens to key decision-making venues. The strategies of the political reformers, often led by the left-of-center Workers' Party (PT), have been based on transforming how and to whom public goods are distributed.

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