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Sociologias

Print version ISSN 1517-4522

Abstract

MILANI, Carlos R. S.. Local public policies and participation in the Brazilian state of Bahia: the management versus politics dilemma. Sociologias [online]. 2006, n.16, pp. 180-214. ISSN 1517-4522.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1517-45222006000200008.

Fostering participation of distinct political actors and creating a network that defines priorities, exerts social control, and contributes to implement and assess public policies have become one of the core organizational principles in contemporary public management and in the processes of local democratic deliberation. In Brazil, the 1990s were marked by institutionalization of participation by "organized civil society", acclaimed by national and international agencies as a model in the processes of making local public policies. However, recent studies have demonstrated the geographic concentration of participatory public management experiences (especially in the case of participatory budgets) in the country's South and Southeast regions, showing that such institutionalization has not developed in a homogeneous way and that the practice of citizen participation presents major variations within the national context. In the particular case of Bahia, recent rates of economic growth above the national average and the process of modernization of public administration based on managerial principles take place parallel to the maintenance of old social and institutional structures that leave citizenry's relationship with the state suspended. That is, citizens' political participation and the development of participatory democracy are confronted with the contradictions of a contemporary history marked, inter alia, by clientelist practices, a patrimonialist conception of public goods, an individual view of power fostered by Carlism (as referring to local political leader Antônio Carlos Magalhães) institutional formalism, lack of transparency in the governmental public sector, weak tradition of support to civic infrastructures, generalized absence of public spaces for democratic deliberation, but also by the presence of cultural and religious factors that influence relations between the State and society. Nowadays, it is not possible to see Bahia's politics as the result of confrontation and diversity of interests between individual and collective actors around themes of public agenda and projects for society. It can rather be seen as a race for power that preserves the past, maintains structural inequalities and is based on the exercise of political mandate as an easy position to foster self-interest. Based on the description of four discourses on public management in today's Bahia, this article seeks to analyze the dilemmas and challenges of citizen participation in an attempt to build new ways to make, implement, and monitor Bahia's local public policies.

Keywords : Local Public Policies; Participatory Management; Democratic Limits; Bahia.

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