Touted as a means to extend democracy to previously disenfranchised people, participatory budgeting actually covers a variety of motivations and effects. This article explores diverse reactions and meanings through a case study of the Peruvian peasant community of Allpalumichico. Although the economic system embedded in the legal requirements of the Peruvian participatory budgeting process derives from the global neoliberal agenda, the actual practices also reflect the personal and political strategies of local and national politicians. At the same time, the citizen participants and beneficiaries of the process understand it on their own terms. Despite both the decline of the peasant community as an institution and the increasing heterogeneity of the residents, collective norms of resource distribution continue to inform how allpalumichiqueños engage in participatory budgeting decisions. This collective sense of community could be the basis for much more organic and relevant forms of participatory budgeting.
Democratization, state control, or community autonomy?
State social spending and financialization in Peru
Peru's economy is booming because of natural resource extraction, without providing formal employment. Instead, increased state revenues fund social spending. This case study shows how cash transfers are integrated into intergenerational reciprocities that are essential to social reproduction in ways that promote financialization: their inadequacy may necessitate loans which the regular disbursements can repay. Recipients hoping to get by tend to have few kin obligations and use state aid to sustain themselves, while those hoping to get ahead use them to leverage investment in productive enterprises for themselves or their families. For people from Allpachico, for whom male migrant work in the regional mining sector was the economic mainstay three decades ago, this constitutes a new relationship to the state, mining, and the economy.