Citizen Participation: A Critical Look at the Democratic Adequacy of Government Consultations
Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Volume 37, Issue 3, 1 September 2017, Pages 636–659,
27 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2018 Last revised: 29 Apr 2019
Date Written: June 12, 2017
Consultation procedures are used increasingly in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This account looks critically at consultation as presently practiced, and suggests that consulters and consultees need to do much more to ensure both the participatory validity and democratic value of such exercises. The possibility of a “right to be consulted” is examined. Some ideas from a governmentality perspective are developed, using the growth of localism as an example, to suggest that consultation is often a very structured interaction: the actual operation of participation mechanisms may not always create a space for an equal exchange between official and participant views. Examples of best practice in consultation are examined before consideration is given to recent case law from the UK seeking to establish basic ground rules for how consultations should be organized. Finally the promise of consultation to reinvigorate democracy is evaluated and weighed against the correlative risk of “participatory disempowerment".
Keywords: Participation, Democracy Governmentality
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation