Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Redistribution of Representation through Participation: Participatory Budgeting in Chengdu and Delhi

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Abstract:  A strong contention of the “representative turn” is that representation is consubstantial with politics (Saward, 2010). One way to test the heuristic value of this vision is to look for representation in an institution that was historically built against representation, namely participatory budgeting (PB), a democratic innovation that has spread globally with exceptional rapidity. The literature on PB identifies two types of relationships between participation and representation: (i) participation “challenges” (Houtzager & Gurza Lavalle, 2009) existing forms and principles of representation (through “assumed representation” by civil society activists; or through “citizen agents”; Montambeault, 2016); or (ii) participation is “instrumentalised” (Fischer, 2012) by classic forms and actors of representation. On the basis of a comparative analysis of PB experiences in Chengdu (China) and Delhi (India), we argue in this article that a third type of relationship can be observed: participation—as implemented through PB—can also redistribute representation insofar as new, official representative roles are created. Moreover, looking at these new roles provides important clues about the principles of representation that are implemented and therefore about the transformative nature of PB.

Keywords:  China; democracy; India; participation; participatory budgeting; representation


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© Emilie Frenkiel, Stéphanie Tawa Lama-Rewal. 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.