Citizen Participation in American Politics

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Do you think citizen participation is an essential element in politics and government? What role do citizens take in public policy? In her classic essay of 1969, Sherry R. Arnstein posited a typology of American citizens’ participation in their government. Intentionally provocative, her typology attempts to explain opportunities for, and barriers to, civic engagement among citizens with power and those without. It provides an excellent context for citizen participation, and you can draw upon Arnstein’s example to understand the implications of citizen participation on the development of public policy.

For this Discussion, review Arnstein’s, “A Ladder of Citizen Participation” and reflect on how this typology has been demonstrated in presidential administrations and in the development of public policy.

Post your explanation of how Arnstein’s typology has been demonstrated in the last two presidential administrations. Provide two examples to illustrate your views. Then, explain at least two implications of citizen participation on the development of public policy or platforms.

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Journal of the American Institute of Planners ISSN: 0002-8991 (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rjpa19 A Ladder Of Citizen Participation Sherry R. Arnstein To cite this article: Sherry R. Arnstein (1969) A Ladder Of Citizen Participation, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35:4, 216-224, DOI: 10.1080/01944366908977225 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01944366908977225 Published online: 26 Nov 2007. Submit your article to this journal Article views: 36654 View related articles Citing articles: 2356 View citing articles Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rjpa19 Download by: [Walden University] Date: 03 April 2017, At: 05:39 Sherry R. Arnstein The heated controversy over “citizen participation,” United States-has or can have. Between understated “citizen control,” and “maximum feasible involvement euphemisms and exacerbated rhetoric, even scholars of the poor,” has been waged largely in terms of ex- have found it difficult to follow the controversy. To acerbated rhetoric and misleading euphemisms. To the headline reading public, it is simply bewildering. encourage a more enlightened dialogue, a typology of My answer to the critical what question is simply that citizen participation is offered using examples from citizen participation is a categorical term for citizen three federal social programs: urban renewal, anti- power. It is the redistribution of power that enables the poverty, and Model Cities. The typology, which is designed to be provocative, is arranged in a ladder have-not citizens, presently excluded from the political pattern with each rung corresponding to the extent of and economic processes, to be deliberately included in citizens’ power in determining the plan and/or program. the future. It is the strategy by which the have-nots join in determining how information is shared, goals and policies are set, tax resources are allocated, programs are The idea of citizen participation is a little operated, and benefits like contracts and patronage are like eating spinach: no one is against it in principle parceled out. In short, it is the means by which they can because it is good for you. Participation of the govinduce significant social reform which enables them to erned in their government is, in theory, the cornershare in the benefits of the affluent society. stone of democracy-a revered idea that is vigorously applauded by virtually everyone. The applause is reEMPTY RITUAL VERSUS BENEFIT duced to polite handclaps, however, when this princiThere is a critical difference between going through the ple is advocated by the have-not blacks, Mexicanof participation and having the real power empty ritual Americans, Puerto Ricans, Indians, Eskimos, and whites. needed to affect the outcome of the process. This And when the have-nots define participation as redifference is brilliantly capsulized in a poster painted distribution of power, the American consensus on the last spring by the French students to explain the fundamental principle explodes into many shades of student-worker rebellion.* (See Figure 1 . ) The poster outright racial, ethnic, ideological, and political highlights the fundamental point that participation opposition. without redistribution of power is an empty and frusThere have been many recent speeches, articles, and trating process for the powerless. It allows the powerbooks which explore in detail who are the have-nots holders to claim that all sides were considered, but of our time. There has been much recent documentation of why the have-nots have become so offended and makes it possible for only some of those sides to benefit. It maintains the status quo. Essentially, it is what has embittered by their powerlessness to deal with the profound inequities and injustices pervading their daily lives. But there has been very little analysis of the content of the current controversial slogan: “citizen participation” or “maximum feasible participation.” In short: What is citizen participation and what is its relationship to the social imperatives of our time? Citizen Participation is Citizen Power Because the question has been a bone of political contention, most of the answers have been purposely buried in innocuous euphemisms like “self-help” or “citizen involvement.” Still others have been embellished with misleading rhetoric like “absolute control” which is something no one-including the President of the Sherry R. Arnstein is Director of Communi’ty Development Studies for The Commons, a non-profit research ‘institute in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. She is a former Chief Advisor on Citizen Participation in HUD’s Model Cities Administration and has served as Staff Consultant to the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of HEW, and Washington Editor of Current Magazine. 216 FIGURE 1 French Student Poster. In English, I participate; you participate; he participates; w e participate; you participate . . . They profit. AIP J O U R N A L JULY 1969 8 Degrees of Delegated power citizen Dower 7 . Partnership 6 A Degrees Of tokenism Informing 3 I Therapy I Nonparticipation Manipulation F ~ U R E2 Eight Rungs on a Ladder of Citizen Pdrticipation been happening in most of the 1,000 Community Action Programs, and what promises to be repeated in the vast majority of the 150 Model Cities programs. can enter into a (6) Partnership that enables them to negotiate and engage in trade-offs with traditional powerholders. At the topmost rungs, ( 7 ) Delegated Power and ( 8 ) Citizen Control, have-not citizens obtain the majority of decision-makingseats, or full managerial power. Obviously, the eight-rung ladder is a simplification, but it helps to illustrate the point that so many have missed-that there are significant gradations of citizen participation. Knowing these gradations makes it possible to cut through the hyperbole to understand the increasingly strident demands for participation from the have-nots as well as the gamut of confusing responses from the powerholders. Though the typology uses examples from federal programs such as urban renewal, anti-poverty, and Model Cities; it could just as easily be illustrated in the church, currently facing demands for power from priests and laymen who seek to change its mission; colleges and universities which in some cases have become literal battlegrounds over the issue of student power; or public schools, city halls, and police departments (or big business which is likely to be next on the expanding list of targets). The underlying issues are essentially the same -“nobodies” in several arenas are trying to become “somebodies” with enough power to make the target institutions responsive to their views, aspirations, and needs. LIMITATIONS OF THE TYPOLOGY Types of Participation and “NonParticipation” A typology of eight levels of participation may help in analysis of this confused issue. For illustrative purposes the eight types are arranged in a ladder pattern with each rung corresponding to the extent of citizens’ power in determining the end p r ~ d u c t (See . ~ Figure 2.) The bottom rungs of the ladder are ( 1 ) Manipulation and ( 2 ) Therapy. These two rungs describe levels of “non-participation” that have been contrived by some to substitute for genuine participation. Their real objective is not to enable people to participate in planning or conducting programs, but to enable powerholders to “educate” or “cure” the participants. Rungs 3 and 4 progress to levels of “tokenism” that allow the havenots to hear and to have a voice: ( 3 ) Znforming and ( 4 ) Considtation. When they are proffered by powerholders as the total extent of participation, citizens may indeed hear and be heard. But under these conditions they lack the power to insure that their views will be heeded by the powerful, When participation is restricted to these levels, there is no followthrough, no “muscle,” hence no assurance of changing the status quo. Rung ( 5 ) Placation, is simply a higher level tokenism because the groundrules allow have-nots to advise, but retain for the powerholders the continued right to decide. Further up the ladder are levels of citizen power with increasing degrees of decision-making clout. Citizens ARNSTEIN The ladder juxtaposes powerless citizens with the powerful in order to highlight the fundamental divisions between them. In actuality, meither the have-nots nor the powerholders are homogeneous blocs. Each group encompasses a host of divergent points of view, significant cleavages, competing vested interests, and splintered subgroups. The justification for using such simplistic abstractions is that in most cases the have-nots really do perceive the powerful as a monolithic “system,” and powerholders actually do view the have-nots as a sea of “those people,” with little comprehension of the dass and caste differences among them. It should be noted that the typology does not include an analysis of the most significant roadblocks to achieving genuine levels of participation. These roadblocks lie on both sides of the simplistic fence. On the powerholders’ side, they include racism, paternalism, and resistance to power redistribution. On the have-nots’ side, they include inadequacies of the poor community’s political socioeconomic inf rastrudure and knowledgebase, plus difficulties of organizing a representative and accountable citizens’ group in the face of futility, alienation, and distrust. Another caution about the eight separate rungs on the ladder: In the real world of people and programs, there might be 150 rungs with less sharp and “pure” distinctions among them. Furthermore, some of the characteristics used to illustrate each of the eight types might be 217 applicable to other rungs. For example, employment of the have-nots in a program or on a planning staff could occur at any of the eight rungs and could represent either a legitimate or illegitimate characteristic of citizen participation. Depending on their motives, powerholders can hire poor people to coopt them, to placate them, or to utilize the have-nots’ special skills and insights.4 Some mayors, in private, actually boast of their strategy in hiring militant black leaders to muzzle them while destroying their credibility in the black community. Characteristics and Illustrations It is in this context of power and powerlessness that the characteristics of the eight rungs are illustrated by examples from current federal social programs. 1. MANIPULATION The signators are not informed that the $2 millionper-year center will only refer residents to the same old waiting lines at the same old agencies across town. No one is asked if such a referral center is really needed in his neighborhood. No one realizes that the contractor for the building is the mayor’s brother-in-law, or that the new director of the center will be the same old community organization specialist f rom the urban renewal agency. After signing their names, the proud grassrooters dutifully spread the word that they have “participated” in bringing a new and wonderful center to the neighborhood to provide people with drastically needed jobs and health and welfare services. Only after the ribboncutting ceremony do the members of the neighborhood council realize that they didn’t ask the important questions, and that they had no technical advisors of their own to help them grasp the fine legal print. The new center, which is open 9 to 5 on weekdays only, actually adds to their problems. Now the old agencies across town won’t talk with them unless they have a pink paper slip to prove that they have been referred by “their” shiny new neighborhood center. Unfortunately, this chicanery is not a unique example. Instead it is almost typical of what has been perpetrated in the name of high-sounding rhetoric like “grassroots participation.” This sham lies at the heart of the deepseated exasperation and hostility of the have-nots toward the powerholders. One hopeful note is that, having been so grossly affronted, some citizens have learned the Mickey Mouse game, and now they too know how to play. As a result of this knowledge, they are demanding genuine levels of participation to assure them that public programs are relevant to their needs and responsive to their priorities. In the name of citizen participation, people are placed on rubberstamp advisory committees or advisory boards for the express purpose of “educating” them or engineering their support. Instead of genuine citizen participation, the bottom rung of the ladder signifies the distortion of participation into a public relations vehicle by powerholders. This illusory form of “participation” initially came into vogue with urban renewal when the socially elite were invited by city housing officials to serve on Citizen Advisory Committees (CACs) . Another target of manipulation were the CAC subcommittees on minority groups, which in theory were to protect the rights of Negroes in the renewal program. In practice, these subcommittees, like their parent CACs, functioned mostly as letterheads, trotted forward at appropriate times to promote urban renewal plans (in recent years known as Negro removal plans). At meetings of the Citizen Advisory Committees, it 2. THERAPY was the officials who educated, persuaded, and advised In some respects group therapy, masked as citizen parthe citizens, not the reverse. Federal guidelines for the ticipation, should be on the lowest rung of the ladder renewal programs legitimized the manipulative agenda because it is both dishonest and arrogant. Its adminisby emphasizing the terms “information-gathering,” trators-mental health experts from social workers to “public relations,” and “support” as the explicit funcpsychiatrists-assume that powerlessness is synonymous tions of the committee^.^ with mental illness. On this assumption, under a masThis style of nonparticipation has since been applied querade of involving citizens in planning, the experts to other programs encompassing the poor. Examples of subject the citizens to clinical group therapy. What this are seen in Community Action Agencies (CAAs) which have created structures called “neighborhood makes this form of “participation” so invidious is that councils” or “neighborhood advisory groups.” These citizens are engaged in extensive activity, but the focus bodies frequently have no legitimate function or power.g of it is on curing them of their “pathology” rather than The CAAs use them to “prove” that “grassroots changing the racism and victimization that create their people” are involved in the program. But the program “pathologies.” Consider an incident that occurred in Pennsylvania may not have been discussed with “the people.” Or it may have been described at a meeting in the most less than one year ago. When a father took his seriously general terms; “We need your signatures on this pro- ill baby to the emergency clinic of a local hospital, a posal for a multiservice center which will house, under young resident physician on duty instructed him to take one roof, doctors from the health department, workers the baby home and feed it sugar water. The baby died from the welfare department, and specialists from the that afternoon of pneumonia and dehydration. The employment service.” overwrought father complained to the board of the local 218 AIP JOURNAL JULY 1969 Community Action Agency. Instead of launching an investigation of the hospital to determine what changes would prevent similar deaths or other forms of malpractice, the board invited the father to attend the CAA’s (therapy) child-care sessions for parents, and promised him that someone would “telephone the hospital director to see that it never happens again.” Less dramatic, but more common examples of therapy, masquerading as citizen participation, may be seen in public housing programs where tenant groups are used as vehicles for promoting control-your-childor deanup campaigns. The tenants are brought together to help them “adjust their values and attitudes to those of the larger society.” Under these groundrules, they are diverted from dealing with such important matters as: arbitrary evictions; segregation of the housing project; or why is there a three-month time lapse to get a broken window replaced in winter. The complexity of the concept of mental illness in our time can be seen in the experiences of student/civil rights workers facing guns, whips, and other forms of terror in the South. They needed the help of socially attuned psychiatrists to deal with their fears and to avoid ~aranoia.~ the official, the citizens accepted the “information” and endorsed the agency’s proposal to place four lots in the white neighborhood.s 4. CONSULTATION Inviting citizens’ opinions, like informing them, can be a legitimate step toward their full participation. But if consulting them is not combined with other modes of participation, this rung of the ladder is still a sham since it offers no assurance that citizen concerns and ideas will be taken into account. The most frequent methods used for consulting people are attitude surveys, neighborhood meetings, and public hearings. When powerholders restrict the input of citizens’ ideas solely to this level, participation remains just a window-dressing ritual. People are primarily perceived as statistical abstractions, and participation is measured by how many come to meetings, take brochures home, or answer a questionnaire. What citizens achieve in all this activity is that they have “participated in participation.” And what powerholders achieve is the evidence that they have gone through the required motions of involving “those people.” Attitude surveys have become a particular bone of contention in ghetto neighborhoods. Residents are in3. INFORMING creasingly unhappy about the number of times per week Informing citizens of their rights, responsibilities, and they are surveyed about their problems and hopes. As options can be the most important first step toward one woman put it: “Nothing ever happens with those legitimate citizen participation. However, too frequently damned questions, except the surveyer gets $3 an hour, the emphasis is placed on a one-way flow of information and my washing doesn’t get done that day.” In some -from officials to citizens-with no channel provided communities, residents are so annoyed that they are for feedback and no power for negotiation. Under these demanding a fee for research interviews. conditions, particularly when information is provided at Attitude surveys are not very valid indicators of coma late stage in planning, people have little opportunity munity opinion when used without other input from to influence the program designed “for their benefit.” citizens. Survey after survey (paid for out of antiThe most frequent tools used for such one-way com- poverty funds) has “documented” that poor housewives munication are the news media, pamphlets, posters, and most want tot-lots in their neighborhood where young responses to inquiries. children can play safely. But most of the women anMeetings can also be turned into vehicles for one-way swered these questionnaires without knowing what their communication by the simple device of providing super- options were. They assumed that if they asked for ficial information, discouraging questions, or giving something small, they might just get something useful irrelevant answers. At a recent Model Cities citizen in the neighborhood. Had the mothers known that a planning m ...
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Drval
School: Duke University

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Running head: Citizen Participation in American Politics

Citizen Participation in American Politics

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Citizen participation is very important in politics and the government, the number one reason is
because it is their democratic right and if they do not participate in stating how they think the
country should be run then the leaders will do it using their own ideals which might not be what
the citizens want, stand for or even believe in. The citizens have a huge role in the passing of
policies; and they should ensure that they participate because these policies affect them greatly.
Before they are passed, the citizens will participate by voting and if they effectively vote,
congress will be forced to act according to the say of the public. Some policies; like that which
deals with minimum wage, do not pass or change because the citizens do not take the initiative to
vote.
We can understand further the impact of citizen participation by looking at Arnstein’s, “A
Ladder of Citizen Participation...

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Anonymous
Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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