Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Counter-Governance: Citizen Participation Beyond Collaboration

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Abstract:  The theory and practice of urban governance in recent years has undergone both a collaborative and participatory turn. The strong connection between collaboration and participation has meant that citizen participation in urban governance has been conceived in a very particular way: as varying levels of partnership between state actors and citizens. This over-focus on collaboration has led to: 1) a dearth of proposals in theory and practice for citizens to engage oppositionally with institutions; 2) the miscasting of agonistic opportunities for participation as forms of collaboration; 3) an inability to recognise the irruption of agonistic practices into participatory procedures. This article attempts to expand the conception of participatory urban governance by adapting Rosanvallon’s (2008) three democratic counter-powers—prevention, oversight and judgement—to consider options for institutionalising agonistic participatory practices. It argues that these counter-governance processes would more fully realise the inclusion agenda that underpins the participatory governance project.

Keywords:  agonism; collaborative governance; counter-democracy; counter-governance; participation; participatory governance; urban governance



© Rikki John Dean. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.