Brazil has conducted some of the world’s most stunning experiments in participatory democracy, most notably the creation of city budgets through local citizens’ meetings. Taking this trend as his backdrop, Leonardo Avritzer introduces a fresh analytical approach to reveal the social and institutional conditions that make civic participation most effective, expanding the empirical base for assessing these institutions. By examining participatory health councils and city master plans within a diverse group of cities—São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Salvador—this book goes beyond the current literature, which has focused almost exclusively on budgeting in Porto Alegre. Ultimately, it provides a more complex understanding of the links between participation, citizenship, and democracy through a set of case studies that will resonate both inside and outside Brazil.

Leonardo Avritzer, an associate professor of political science at the Federal University of Mina Gerais, Brazil, has been a major contributor to the political sociology of Latin America. He was a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2006.


Tables and Figures

1. Toward a Theory of Participatory Institutions for Brazil

Part I: The Emergence of Participatory Institutions in Brazil
2. Changes in Civil Society
3. Changes in Political Society
4. Changes in Institutional Design

Part II: The Operation of Participatory Institutions in Brazil
5. Participatory Budgeting
6. Health Councils
7. City Master Plans

Part III: Conclusion
8. The Limits and Potential of Participatory Institutions


Participatory Institutions in Democratic Brazil manifests mastery of a wide terrain and an impressive degree of good judgment about a wide panorama. It has much to offer in terms of new information, and will likely be welcomed by experts.”—John D. French, Duke University

“This is an ambitious, original book that opens up a new field of analysis about the role of participation in democracy, reorienting the current debate on civil society and civic engagement in a different direction and linking it to the crucial question of democratic institutionalization.”—Enrique Peruzzotti, Universidad Torcuato di Tella, Argentina

“Accessibly written and very readable.”—Kathleen Bruhn, Political Science Quarterly

“One of the most important contributions to the literature on urban politics and policy-making in Brazil to be published in recent years.”—Anthony W. Pereira, Luso-Brazilian Review