Producing and performing 'communities': Looking at the paradox of public participationand de-politicisation

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Sociology


The notion of 'post-politics' which has gained currency in social science circles in recent decades forms part of a left critique of global capitalism and (neo)liberal thought. One of the central premises of post-political discourse is that politics proper - politics as a process of opening-out issues to conflict, disagreement, and alternative framings of socio-political relations - is increasingly foreclosed by managerial, technocratic, expert-led, and consensus-seeking approaches and procedures. Public participation is seen as one such procedure in this discourse and interpreted as a strategy of de-politicization. The AHRC-scoping study on which this discussion paper is based surveyed key texts in the post-political literature and carefully examined their claims made in relation to politics and public participation. It considered these claims in the light of relevant literatures in the disciplines of political theory, Social Studies of Science (STS), and human geography. Creating a correspondence between these literatures proved insightful and confirmed that processes of de-politicization are indeed perceived as a widespread phenomenon although they are not always interpreted in the same ways. This urges for a (public?) re-evaluation of the role of 'politics' and 'publics' in present-day societies in general, and in the UK, their role in relation to the governments' vision of a 'Big Society' in particular.


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Tsouvalis J (2012) Building 'participation' upon critique: The Loweswater Care Project, Cumbria, UK in Environmental Modelling & Software