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Participatory budgeting in Peru

Democratization, state control, or community autonomy?

Susan Vincent

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.