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Policy Metaphors and Deep Local Democracy: The Case of the Chilean Neighbourhood Recovery Programme

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Abstract

The Neighbourhood Recovery Programme is the first government urban regeneration programme implemented in Chilean underprivileged urban areas using deliberative processes. Through interviews with key policy makers and the revision of government documents, this article explores the cognitive metaphors by which this programme frames its local construction of sociability. In so doing, this research examines the programme’s potential to build a deep conception of local democracy. The article contributes to debates discussing the effect of the Chilean state in enhancing or curtailing civil society empowerment in politically excluded areas. It argues that this programme’s metaphors serve efficient policy implementation. However, they also reproduce top-down dynamics of institutional imposition that undermine accountability and have already been described by ethnographers in underprivileged neighbourhoods.
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POLICY METAPHORS AND DEEP
LOCAL DEMOCRACY: THE CASE OF
THE CHILEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD
RECOVERY PROGRAMME
ABSTRACT
The Neighbourhood Recovery Programme is the first government urban
regeneration programme implemented in Chilean underprivileged urban
areas using deliberative processes. Through interviews with key policy
makers and the revision of government documents, this article explores
the cognitive metaphors by which this programme frames its local cons-
truction of sociability. In so doing, this research examines the programme’s
potential to build a deep conception of local democracy. The article con-
tributes to debates discussing the effect of the Chilean state in enhancing
or curtailing civil society empowerment in politically excluded areas. It
argues that this programme’s metaphors serve efficient policy implemen-
tation. However, they also reproduce top-down dynamics of institutional
imposition that undermine accountability and have already been described
by ethnographers in underprivileged neighbourhoods.
1. Phd. Oxford University. Academic Researcher at Instituto Chileno de Estudios Municipales (ICHEM), Autonomous
University of Chile. Santiago. E-mail: simonescoffier@gmail.com
Simón Esc offier M art ínez
1
Recibido: 22/04/2017
Aceptado: 14/07/2017
2METÁFORAS EN POLÍTICAS
PÚBLICAS Y DEMOCRACIA
LOCAL PROFUNDA: EL CASO DEL
PROGRAMA DE RECUPERACIÓN DE
BARRIOS EN CHILE
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2 | Policy Metaphors and Deep Local Democracy: the Case of the...
Simón Escoer Martínez
KEYWORDS:
deepening democracy, civil society, political exclu-
sion, Neighbourhood Recovery Programme, Chile.
R E S U M E N
El Programa de Recuperación de Barrios es el primer programa gubernamental de
regeneración urbana en sectores populares chilenos de métodos deliberativos. Con
entrevistas a decidores de política pública y revisión de documentos, este artículo
explora las metáforas cognitivas con que este programa enmarca su fomento de
sociabilidad. Esta investigación examina el potencial del programa para construir
democracia profunda. Así, contribuye a debates que discuten el impacto del estado
en favorecer o mermar el empoderamiento de la sociedad civil en sectores excluidos.
Argumenta que las metáforas del programa apuntan a la implementación eficiente
de políticas públicas. Sin embargo, ellas también reproducen dinámicas de imposi-
ción institucional que dañan la rendición de cuentas y ya descritas anteriormente
por etnógrafos de sectores populares.
PALABRAS CLAVE:
democracia profunda, sociedad civil, exclusión
política, Programa de Recuperación de Barrios, Chile.
1. INTRODUCTION
This paper looks at whether the conceptions underlying the Chilean Neigh-
bourhood Recovery Programme’s (NRP) design and implementation advan-
ce a deep idea of local democracy. A deep understanding of democracy entai-
ls bringing democracy to all levels of deliberative public processes. Usually
applied to cases of local deliberative governance, frameworks of deep demo-
cracy build social innovation and politicisation. Consequently, deepening
democracy seeks expanding citi zenship across different scales and contexts.
The Chilean case is highly particular in Latin America. Compared to other
Latin American democracies-in which the democratic potential of delibe-
rative programmes has already been assessed-the Chilean underprivileged
urban areas suffer from a strong, qualitatively unique institutional mani-
pulation. Grassroots organisations are often in conflict with the state-sub-
jected to repression or co-optation. Conversely, civil society organisations
in poblaciones (Chilean underprivileged neighbourhoods) tend to subsidi-
se the job of the state. State agencies tend to impose goals as well as defi-
nitions of citizenship and participation on local organisations curtailing
their ability to demand accountability. Scholars have even called población
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organisations ‘creatures of the state’ to highlight their lack of autonomy.
In 2006 a new, seemingly progressive regeneration programme by the Mi-
nistry of Housing and Urban Development (MINVU) began its implemen-
tation. Unique among Chilean policies, the programme used deliberative
methods to improve services and infrastructure in impoverished and ne-
glected poblaciones. In order to support and validate its deliberative pro-
cess, the programme sought to develop sociability at the local level-i.e.
increasing participation of neighbours, leadership, as well as neighbour-
hood identity and belonging. Initially called ‘Quiero Mi Barrio’ (I Love My
Neighbourhood), the Neighbourhood Recovery Programme (NRP) was de-
signed after highly transformative governance processes in Spain and Bra-
zil. The NRP’s claims of citizen empowerment, local identity production,
re-appropriation of public spaces, and citizenship construction promised
to challenge traditional conceptions of state-civil society interactions in
popular Chile. In this article, I seek to evaluate the reality of those assump-
tions by examining the NRP’s potential to deepen democracy.
Studying the cognitive metaphors whereby MINVU policy makers design
and coordinate that programme, this research contradicts those claims.
This article argues that the NRP’s conception of sociability reproduces the
same top-down logics of institutional imposition that other researchers
have described in the interaction between the Chilean state and popular
civil society organisations. This research is based on interviews conducted
with key MINVU officials and the analysis of the programme’s documents.
Its analysis shows that the programme frames sociability using two com-
plementary metaphors: 1) sociability as asset, and 2) neighbourhoods as
containers of sociability. These metaphors restrict democracy by strictly
focusing on the contribution of social interactions to policy efficiency.
The paper begins by explaining political exclusion and civil society deacti-
vation in Chilean underprivileged neighbourhoods. It also defines cogni-
tive metaphors and deep democracy stressing their benefits in the analysis
of local governance processes. Secondly, the article addresses its methodo-
logical decisions and describes its case study, the NRP. Thirdly, a thorou-
gh examination of the programme’s metaphors on sociability is provided
explaining the consequences of its assumptions for a deep conception of
democracy. The paper concludes by advising strategically incorporating
the concept of informal governance in the study of Chilean policy design.
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2. EXCLUDING THE URBAN POOR
Latin American states and local civil society organisations have historica-
lly built a conflicted relationship. While state promotion of participation
can be quite successful in some cases, it many times fails in fostering ade-
quate vertical accountability (Goldfrank, 2011).
Scholars have deemed urban underprivileged transitional and post-transi-
tional Chilean civil society as a peculiar case in Latin America. Often, Latin
American political institutions strategize in order to pacify or deactivate
contentious popular movements. Petras and Veltmeyer (2006) argue that
Latin American states negotiate with, repress, manipulate, weaken, and co-
opt grassroots organisations to pacify or deactivate them. This is especia-
lly so in favelas, villas, poblaciones, and other underprivileged areas. This
often includes incorporating movements in policy-making processes to
weaken their contentious potential. In all of these cases, state institutions
play a role that is differentiated from civil society organisations. Neverthe-
less, the particularity of Chilean popular civil society has been described
as its recurrent indistinction from the state. Research shows that popular
Chilean grassroots organisations tend to function as an extension of the
state, which largely diminishes their capacity to make political institu-
tions accountable (Koppelman, 2016; Roberts, 1998). Underprivileged urban
areas have a strong tradition of contentious collective action. Through ur-
ban land take overs, occupying state buildings, marches, and other actions,
what became known as movimiento de pobladores (underprivileged resi-
dents movement) challenged authorities demanding their right to housing
since the 1920s through the 1980s (Garcés, 2002). In its protests resisting the
dictatorship during the 1980s, this movement became particularly salient
(Espinoza, 1993).
Since Chile’s return to electoral democracy in 1989, however, población or-
ganisations developed by subsidising state functions at the grassroots le-
vel, researchers suggest
2
. A group of scholars have supported these claims
through rigorous ethnographic work, which focuses specifically on the
impact that institutions have over popular organisations at the grassroots
level. Paley (2001, p. 6) convincingly explains how transitional popular
civil society organisations became ‘agents in their own governance’. Or-
ganisations, she suggests, develop initiatives that, instead of challenging
state policies, assist government agencies. Through her fieldwork, Paley
2. Although this claim applies to most Chilean urban underprivileged areas, there are several exceptions. For more
details on exceptional cases see the work of Lock (2005), Escoffier (2015), and Pérez (2017).
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(2001, 2004) argues that state agencies manipulate local organisations. In
meetings and other interactions she observed how government officials
demanded movements’ support by equating contentious collective action
with the intention of destabilising the newly established democratic regime
in the early 1990s. In consequence, challenging the state after Chile’s demo-
cratic transition became a synonym of supporting the recently overturned
dictatorship.
More recent research has compellingly confirmed these findings by provi-
ding other nuanced and complementary explanations on the blurred boun-
dary between state agencies and popular organisations. Greaves (2005), for
example, argues that the Chilean urban municipal decentralisation produ-
ced by the dictatorial regime in the 1980s atomises and particularises local
organisations at the municipal level. These conditions allow municipali-
ty officials to produce what he calls a ‘grammar of citizenship’. In other
words, ‘teaching’ institutionally validated definitions of ‘responsible citi-
zenship’ and participation, local government agents control and manipula-
te grassroots organisations (Greaves, 2004, 2005). Consequently, a smoothly
crafted logic of top-down imposition prevails in the relationship between
state and civil society in poblaciones undermining vertical accountability.
In fact, as Koppelman (2016, p. 6) suggests, ‘local organizations in poor and
working-class neighbourhoods are themselves refashioned into an “outer
trench” against claims on the state and challenges to the legitimacy of the
neoliberal project. This paper intends to complement this strand of research
by focusing on the other side of this dynamic. It investigates how state offi-
cials managing the implementation of a popular regeneration programme
in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development frame the idea of ‘so-
ciability. In doing so, it seeks to examine the conceptions that sustain these
political dynamics at the top positions of Chilean government.
This task requires beginning with a broader look at the interactions between
civil society and political institutions in 21st Century Chile. Since the early
2000s, Chile has seen the resurgence of its citizens’ public engagement. Ar-
guably, Chilean citizenship has changed and expanded in the past decade.
Increasing numbers of demonstrations, movements, and initiatives have
shown people’s growing disposition to effect social change by questioning
locally entrenche d systems of inequality (UNDP, 2015). With its peaks in 200 6
and 2011, the Student Movement, for example, proved to be highly effective
in redefining local frames of collective action and in shaping public poli-
cies (Donoso, 2016). This wave of politicisation moves along with people’s
strong disenchantment with political institutions and with movements’
increasing disconnection from political parties (Somma & Bargsted, 2015).
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Underprivileged citizens in segregated neighbourhoods, nevertheless,
cannot fully distance themselves from political institutions. They heavily
depend on those institutions to access medical treatments, educational be-
nefits, food, cash transfers, subsidies, and security. Población organisations
require neighbourhood community buildings and funding for coordina-
ting local initiatives, both provided in different forms by the state. With
Putnam’s ‘Making Democracy Work’ in 1993, the notion of social capital
moved to the forefront of development programmes implemented by in-
ternational and national agencies (Frank, 2003). Planning to build and
strengthen social ties became a requirement for urban renewal and local
development plans. States currently see re-building a school, refurbishing
a square, or providing subsidies in poor neighbourhoods as insufficient
efforts, unless they are coordinated with local community organisations.
Policies such as the Neighbourhood Law in Barcelona, the Socially Inte-
ractive City Programme in Germany, and the Housing Self-management
and Popular Habitat programme in Caracas have sought to strengthen ci-
tizens’ decision making at the local level. Scholars, as well as many policy
makers, conceive these initiatives as opportunities to deepen deliberative
democracy through participatory governance (Fung & Olin Wright, 2003;
Goldfrank, 2011). They are seen as instances of potentially highly fruitful
democratic synergy between citizens and state institutions. Deliberative
democracy calls for the engagement of citizens as reasonable equals in pro-
cesses of deliberation regarding their community. It is meant to collectively
shape people’s ideas and preferences to promote authentic social coopera-
tion. Accordingly, these policies are deemed as occasions in which commu-
nities become more politically engaged by learning new democratic values
(Baiocchi, 2003; Harriss, Stokke, & Törnquist, 2005).
By focusing on how MINVU policy makers designing and implementing
the NRP frame their interventions and strategies, this paper looks at whe-
ther this programme functions under the adequate conceptions to deepen
local democracy. In order to achieve such a goal, the NRP would need to
overcome the challenges that local civil society organisations face when
dealing with political institutions in Chilean poblaciones. As described
above, tackling these challenges necessarily requires acknowledging the
highly symbiotic relationship between local organisations and the state in
those underprivileged areas. Ultimately, the paper seeks to explore whe-
ther the NRP fosters or curtails the expansion of Chilean citizenship that
has unfolded since the mid 2000s. To this end, the paper examines the cog-
nitive metaphors by which the NRP-through its officials and institutional
documents-frames its strategies to enhance sociability in poblaciones.
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3. METAPHOR CONSTRUCTION AND
DEEPENING DEMOCRACY
Research shows that the way in which policy makers and politicians meta-
phorically speak of public policies defines the strategies by which they will
seek to implement those policies (Plumm, Borhart, & Weatherly, 2012; Sims
Bartel, 2015; Thibodeau & Boroditsky, 2011, 2013). Thibodeau and Borodits-
ky’s research (2011, p. 9) suggests that ‘metaphors exert an influence over
people’s reasoning by instantiating frame-consistent knowledge structu-
res, and inviting structurally-consistent inferences’.
Often, when metaphors change, policy strategies also change. These shifts
can even be dramatic for the population. Ronald Regan, for example, decla-
red a war on drugs in the 1980s. This led to harsher and longer sentences
for drug-related crimes, multiplying the US incarceration rate four times
since then. Under the same metaphor, president Duterte’s policy to defeat
drug consumption and traffic in the Philippines has killed more than 7,000
people in no more than 8 months. This is because different metaphors bring
to mind different knowledge structures, thus implying specific analogical
inferences. Metaphors recall conceptual analogies. According to Gentner
& Wolff (1997) we use metaphors to organize information in abstract do-
mains, generating a relational structure between abstract cognitive ele-
ments. Cognitive mechanisms import a particular metaphor from a more
concrete field to the abstract domain as an analogy. We organise the rela-
tion of elements in line with the metaphor’s structure. This occurs through
a cognitive mechanism that imports a metaphor from a more concrete field
to the abstract domain as an analogy. We incorporate a dove that extends its
wings in the sky, for example, as an analogy of freedom. We, hence, organi-
se the structural relation of elements in line with the metaphor’s structure.
This allows us to create representations of complex types of knowledge,
connecting the abstract and the concrete in a single metaphor. Consequent-
ly, we are able to think of highly abstract ideas, such as mind, market or
society, using concrete concepts (Murphy 1996). According to our example,
we would then draw a white dove to communicate freedom. It is a cognitive
strategy that ‘allows us to refer to it [an abstract concept], quantify it, iden-
tify a particular aspect of it ... and perhaps even believe that we understand
it’ (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 26).
Metaphors, hence, help us manage abstract concepts and make them ope-
rational in our communication with others. Metaphors allow us crea-
ting common agreements on how we understand concepts and what
consequences they have. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) even argue that,
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because metaphors organise cultural collective abstract meanings,
they are at the base of how we build our identities and value-systems.
Building on Fung and Olin Wright’s (2003) work, this paper identifies three
basic principles by which participatory governance deepens democracy.
This analytical disaggregation will be of use to assess the NRP’s metaphors
on soc iabil it y.
1) Grassroots autonomy and oversight. Policy makers should conceive poli-
cy implementation as a way of advancing toward civil society’s self-deter-
mination. The autonomy of grassroots organisations deepens people’s sen-
se of protagonism as builders of their own community. Part of this process
involves engaging in holding political representatives accountable. In other
words, only autonomous civil society organisations are able to challenge
political institutions, policies or legislation (Balderacchi, 2017).
2) Deliberative solution generation. Participants engage in deliberation to
reach group choices by facing conflicts, listening to each other’s positions,
providing persuasive arguments and conceding some of their interests.
While it is true that actors cooperate in cases in which they seek to sol-
ve specific, concrete issues, Fung and Olin Wright (2003) warn about the
importance of actors also engaging in broader conflicts (e.g. unequal land
access or redistributive policies).
3) Civil society’s engagement in decision-making processes. Governance
deepening democracy necessarily seeks to empower grassroots organisa-
tions, in order to increasingly incorporate them in defining the policies that
will shape their community. Roberts (1998) argues that this process usually
grows in direct connection with demands that, although formulated at the
local level or in specific fields of action, exceed that scale seeking larger
political and social impact.
4. THE NEIGHBOURHOOD RECOVERY
PROGRAMME
During the 1990s the newly appointed democratic government implemen-
ted a set of measures aiming to tackle poverty and a large housing deficit, as
well as improving public infrastructure. Much of its policies sought to have
impact at the local level. The government expanded the social housing sub-
sidy system and created a network of programmes aiming to provide access
to housing as well as improving urban connectivity and public spaces for
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urban communities-e.g. including the Neighbourhood Improvement Pro-
gramme (by the Ministry of Interior), the Progressive Housing Programme,
the Community Infrastructure Programme, Participatory Pavements, and
the Parks and Urban Roads Programme (Arriagada, Sepúlveda, Cartier, &
Gutiérrez, 2004). Between 1998 and 2004 the Programa Chile Barrio (Ch ile
Neighbourhood Programme) also worked at the local level and sought to
battle extreme poverty through a comprehensive plan. It provided fami-
lies with basic services (electricity, water, and sewage), social housing, and
community infrastructure, as well as promoting people’s school comple-
tion, their engagement in collective entrepreneurship initiatives and their
attendance to government skills training courses (Saborido, 2005). While
several of these programmes sought to involve people’s opinions as well as
improving their social capital, none of them were understood as innovative
governance processes. These programmes contributed to strongly reduce
poverty
3
, built an average of 90,000 houses per year, and boosted economic
growth (Arriagada et al., 2004). However, despite its efforts, the government
neglected urban living conditions for the poorest-the quality of housing was
very poor, the programme’s funding systems promoted people’s indebted-
ness and benefitted large companies, and located underprivileged families
in the urban peripheries increasing people’s vulnerability (Rivera, 2012).
In 2006, in her inaugural address, President Bachelet announced the creation of
the Neighbourhood Recovery Programme-also called Quiero Mi Barrio (I Love
My Neighbourhood). Dierent scholars and policy makers had then diagnosed
the Chilean social housing situation as critical. Although the government’s hi-
ghly eective housing subsidy was close to eradicating informal settlements,
its poorly planned housing construction had ghettoised Chilean cities with litt-
le concern for people’s social living environment. Critics emphasised the emer-
gence of social illnesses as a result of this policy’s strong urban land liberalisa-
tion, lack of planning, low-quality construction, and high segregation (Bustos,
2006; Sugranyes & Rodríguez, 2005; Tironi, 2003). Bachelet’s government reac-
ted to this issue with a large-scale budget plan to implement the NRP in the 200
most vulnerable neighbourhoods across the country.
The programme intervenes defined urban areas (between 500 and 5,000
households
4
) understood as neighbourhoods, which comprise a relatively
3. According to The World Bank (2011) the Poverty headcount ratio at $1.90 a day plummeted in Chile between
1990 and 2010, from 7.92% of the population to 0.92%. Similarly, the standard poverty rate decreased to a fifth
from 1990 to 2013 (Larrañaga & Rodríguez, 2015).
4. The size and population of areas defined as neighbourhoods by the NRP are highly variable. A report from 2008
states that, among the 200 neighbourhoods selected by the programme in 2006, 68% comprise 500 households
or less, 28% have between 500 to 1,500 households, 3% have between 1,500 to 3,000 households, and only 1%
of the neighbourhoods exceed 3,000 households (MINVU, 2008, p. 6).
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differentiated community
5
. Its angle is twofold: first, it physically impro-
ves the neighbourhood by refurbishing current urban infrastructure (i.e.
lighting, squares, recreational facilities, streets, sewage, among others)
6
.
Second, the programme seeks to create and strengthen local associational
life. Thus, it is the first large intervention programme by the MINVU see-
king to enhance sociability development. Although the budget for each in-
tervention is defined in advance, it varies heavily depending on the case.
Deemed only as ‘vulnerable’-because their weaknesses lay either on their
neglected infrastructure or on their poor social ties-some neighbourhoods
require more limited interventions. In these cases, the governments spen-
ding can vary from USD 0.8 to 1.5 million. Interventions in neighbourhoods
with more systemic issues, understood as ‘critical’
7
, have involved invest-
ments of up to USD 8 to 10 million.
The top government officials designing, coordinating, and implementing
the NRP belong to the Neighbourhood Development Executive Secretariat,
which locates them among the high ranks within the Ministry of Housing
and Urban Development. This Secretariat depends on the ministrys Depu-
ty Secretariat of Housing and Urban Development, which directly provides
the Minister’s office with technical, strategic support. Below this structure,
the Research Division Office supports that team providing statistics, stu-
dies, and reports for the NRP. The implementation reaches the grassroots
through the Ministry’s Regional Secretariats (SEREMI). Located in every
region of the country, SEREMI offices use a NRP implementation team of
neighbourhood executives (professionals either from the ministry, the local
government, or from a hired private company) that directly approach the
communities in previously selected neighbourhoods.
Executives are meant to mediate and facilitate three phases: 1) Signing a
‘neighbourhood contract’ in which local dwellers agree on a plan for re-
novating and improving their neighbourhood infrastructure. This phase
usually involves a technical diagnostic study carried out by the ministry, as
well as creating a Neighbourhood Development Council (NDC). The NDC
is a new local organisation that summons neighbourhood leaders to agree
on a physical and social development plan. The NDC works as a deliberati-
5. Neighbourhood boundaries tend to be locally defined by residents. Neighbourhood names usually result from
past designations of the land (from their rural time), names of local families, or relevant events community for
the local.
Although, not always successfully, the NRP has made efforts to follow those locally defined boundaries.
6. Since 2015 the NRP also included building social housing.
7. The NRP eventually saw as stigmatising framing neighbourhoods as ‘critical’. Consequently, policy makers
sought to use other, alternative wording.
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ve governance body that occasionally connects with local institutions (e.g.
the local police station) to engage them in solving specific neighbourhood
issues. In some cases, the contract may include working with residents to
boost their local sense of belonging. This strategy generally involves re-
constructing the neighbourhood’s history to improve residents’ cohesive-
ness and sense of identity. Additionally, this plan ought to meet the budget
requirements imposed by the ministry. 2) Implementing the project for-
mulated in the neighbourhood contract. 3) End and assess the MRP im-
plementation. This phase involves a closure event, as well as preparing a
comprehensive report and an evaluation on the work carried out by the
NRP in the neighbourhood.
Between 2006 and 2010 Bachelet’s administration gave special salience to
the NRP and allocated considerable funding for its implementation. A team
with strong academic credentials was appointed at the Ministry for Hou-
sing and Urban Development for the programme’s design, planning and
coordination. Under the name ‘Quiero Mi Barrio’, the programme became
widely known among underprivileged urban residents.
President Piñera’s administration took office in 2010 and replaced the key
political agents in the MINVU appointing Rodrigo Pérez as its Minister.
Although the NRP had become a popular policy by the previous, opposing
government, Pérez instructed its sustainability.
5. METHODS
This research focused on the group of 6 top officials in the MINVU whose
work directly impacts the design, coordination, and implementation of the
NRP, and one former official who had been part of the programme’s design
but did not work in the ministry any more during this fieldwork. In June
and July 2011, I conducted a semi-structured interview with each one of
them (40 minutes to 1 hour). Interviewees accepted to participate in wri-
ting and/or verbally. They agreed on remaining anonymous, so that their
words could express the programme’s narratives but not be traced back to
them personally. Additionally, I revised a set of 11 documents prepared by
this team that defined the NRP’s goals and strategies. Interviewees held
masters and doctoral degrees from highly regarded institutions-i.e. MIT,
ETSAB School Barcelona, Harvard University, University of Chile, and
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. A seventh interview with a former
ministry official who had been highly involved in the programme’s design
was included. This interviewee provided key information on the concep-
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tual origins and initial intentions of the programme. Data collection-throu-
gh interviews and documents-paid attention to ministry officials’ general
vision of the programme, as well as to how they framed its strategies to
enhance sociability development.
TA B L E 1
DETAILS OF I NTERVIEWS IN T HE UR BAN DEV ELOP MENT
DIVIS ION AT THE CHI LEAN M INI STRY OF HO USI NG AND U RBAN
DEVELOPMENT
The documents revised were either 1) fully or partially prepared by the Mi-
nistry of Housing and Urban Development’s team in charge of designing
and implementing the NRP, or 2) prepared by MINVU officials in 2002 and
2006, and influential in the NRP design
8
.
Head of the Ministry’s Research Division
Head of the Neighbourhood Develop-
ment Executive Secretariat.
Chief of Research in the Neighbourhood
Development Executive Secretariat.
NRP Director, in the Neighbourhood
Development Executive Secretariat.
NRP General Manager, in the Neigh-
bourhood Development Executive
Secretariat.
Researcher at the Ministry’s Research
Division
Former ministry ocial in the
Neighbourhood Development Executive
Secretariat.
Oversees research at the Ministry. Designs and
plans the NRP’s major research strategies.
Oversees programmes within the Secretariat.
Strategically denes the NRP’s planning and
implementation.
Provides research support to the NRP.
Coordinates the implementation of the NRP in the
Ministry.
Manages nancial and legal issues for the NRP.
In charge of supporting the NRP designing and
implementing research.
Participated in the NRP’s initial design.
Partial
Partial
Partial
Full time
Full time
Full time
None
INTERVIEWEE FUNCTION DEDICATION TO NRP
8. These reports from 2002 and 2006 were included here because, despite not referring to the NRP, interviewees
pointed to them as influential in the programme’s early development.
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• MINVU, Quiero Mi Barrio (2015).
• MINVU, II Foro Internacional de Recuperación de Barrios (2010).
• MINVU, Recuperación de 200 Barrios: Hacia la Construcción de Tipologías
(2010).
• MINVU, Programa de Recuperación de Barrios: Lecciones Aprendidas y Buenas
Prácticas (2010).
• MINVU, Déficit Urbano-Habitacional. Una Mirada Integral a la Calidad de
Vida y el Hábitat Residencial en Chile (2009).
• MINVU, Manual de Recuperación de Historia del Barrio (2009).
• SEREMI Metroplitana de Vivienda y Urbanismo, & Observatorio Social
UAH, Recuperando Barrios de Santiago (2008).
• MINVU & CEPAL, Primer Foro Iberoamericano de Experiencias de Recupera-
ción de Barrios (2008).
• MINVU, Informe Descriptivo del Programa Quiero Mi Barrio (2008).
• MINVU, Grupos Vulnerables, Déficit Habitacional y Espacio Público (2006).
• MINVU, Satisfacción Residencial en la Vivienda Básica SERVIU: La Perspec-
tiva del Capital Social (2002).
I coded and analysed the collected data using NVivo. I conducted a thema-
tic analysis, which entails repeatedly reading the data to identify patterns
as emergent themes that become the categories of analysis (Liamputtong
& Ezzy, 1999). From a qualitative research standpoint, this paper does not
seek probabilistic approach in selecting its case study (Lieberson, 1991). In
other words, it does not seek to be representative. Instead, it analyses only
one case study looking at the social dynamics underlying the NRP policy
makers’ narratives. In line with the logics of the extended case method
(Burawoy, 1998), the paper examines how this particular case informs on
the broader role that social policies can have in fostering or curtailing citi-
zenship expansion in the Chilean context.
6. NARRATIVES ON PUBLIC DISENGAGEMENT
Ministry officials recognise and adhere to academic narratives that explain
popular political disengagement as a result of neoliberal policies. As I show
here, they do not, however, take into account those academic studies exp-
laining how political institutions have deactivated popular organisations
on the ground in post-transitional Chile.
Although the group of interviewees functioned as a team, they were
relatively diverse in their education and functions. This shaped the way
in which they spoke of the NRP. Their skills, experience, and education
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oscillated between finance and economics on the one hand, and urban
studies and sociology on the other. Those interviewees devoted to feeding
the NRP with research stressed statistics, budgets, financial trends, and
predictions. Their conception of the programme is strongly mediated by
their emphasis on objective results and adequate methodologies. On the
other hand, the staff involved in administering the programme highlighted
their management experience and often expressed their ideas in aesthetic,
geometrical ways. They alluded, for example, to ‘polygons’-to speak of
sections of the city-or to ‘social weft’ (trama social)-referring to social
networks.
Despite these differences, when team members explain the social necessity
for implementing the NRP, they reference a particular strand of academic
literature. In their account, the NRP responds to the popular public disen-
gagement and low quality housing that resulted from 30 years of housing
policies strictly focused on covering poor people’s urgent need for accom-
modation. Echoing the programme’s documents, an interviewee explained
that before the NRP ‘the Ministry had only a quantitative look on social
housing… it was all about building as many houses as possible’. Highly
neoliberal urban policies, created by the dictatorship (1973-1990) and re-
produced by transitional democratic governments, disintegrated highly
cohesive and politicised popular urban communities, interviewees argued.
In line with publications such as those of Sugranyes and Rodríguez (2005)
and Tironi (2003), MINVU officials suggested that these policies displaced
people within the city disconnecting them from their original urban ha-
bitats-informal settlements, mostly. They argued that the Chilean urban
subsidy system placed families in small, low-quality houses, which were
located in large and homogeneous peripheral ghettos. One interviewee, for
example, explained how these displacements disconnected people from
community engagement by telling me: ‘people got to those neighbour-
hoods feeling suspicious about their neighbours… they basically arrived
there angry’. Another MINVU official echoed the rest of the interviewees
by speaking of how private life has prevailed over public involvement in
working class neighbourhoods. She said ‘the private colonised their lives,
the communitarian type of life doesn’t exist anymore in those places’. Inter-
viewees suggest that the anomy, insecurity, and violence of public spaces
in ghettos has deepened people’s disposition to enclose their interactions
at the private level.
The documents prepared by the NRP also reproduce these academic argu-
ments and support the team’s diagnosis. For example, a document defining
the protocols for the programme’s promotion of local identity insists on the
same diagnosis. It explains that neighbourhoods intervened by the NRP
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have ‘high degrees of disintegration, as well as urban and social damage,
in which the power of associations, the credibility, and collective effort
have decreased’ (MINVU, 2009b, p. 10). Similarly, in a report defining a
typology of neighbourhoods for the programme, the head of the Ministrys
Urban Division reproduces Tironi’s (2003) argument (MINVU, 2010b). He
describes the background in which the programme emerged by alluding
to the ‘new poverty’ in Chilean cities. This new ghetto poverty involves a
novel challenge for social policies because, although those people ‘have a
roof and land tenure’, their poverty emerges as ‘the darkest side of social
exclusion’. In this context, the NRP’s task is to produce inclusion by rege-
nerating not only neighbourhoods’ infrastructure, but also their sociability
and public incorporation (MINVU, 2010b, p. 3).
Interviewees and documents frame this social diagnosis of popular public
disengagement in disconnection with the role of the state in specific grass-
roots interactions. An interviewee, exceptionally, provided one isolated cri-
tical comment ind icating t hat the state usually fails to follow through con sul-
tation processes with local communities. ‘This builds distrust’, she argued.
However, neither interviewees nor the programme’s documents speak
of the largely documented dynamics that this paper describes above, by
which the state and civil society organisations have persistently discoura-
ged initiatives of social change and citizenship expansion in poblaciones.
7. METAPHORS OF SOCIABILITY
This analysis shows that interviewees and programme documents build a
contradictory conception of sociability. On the one hand, the programme
uses concepts with a strong potential of expanding people’s citizenship in
underprivileged urban areas. On the other hand, an analysis of the NRP’s
metaphors shows that its operationalisation of sociability restricts demo-
cracy by almost purely focusing on the efficiency of public policy.
By alluding to a multi-scalar approach and to conceptions of citizen em-
powerment and radical urbanism, the NRP shows a seeming disposition to
deepen democracy in underprivileged urban areas. Repeatedly, documents
insist on the NRP’s intention to use a multi-scalar approach by connecting
different scales and actors, thus showing its plan to go beyond the neigh-
bourhood boundaries to seek resources and build impact at the local level.
One of them, for example, calls for a ‘multidimensional approach to the
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neighbourhoods’, which involves ‘recognising the different problems and
opportunities emerging from different scales (family, close environment,
neighbourhood, borough, city)’ (SEREMI Metroplitana de Vivienda y Ur-
banismo & Observatorio Social UAH, 2008, p. 7). Another document seems
to allude to the programme’s multi-scalar approach describing its principle
of ‘interconnectedness’, defined as the ‘effort of articulation that seeks to
satisfy the community’s demands as well as development projects before
the efficient and effective intervention of instruments’ (MINVU, 2008, p.
5). MINVU officials supported this emphasis in a multi-scalar approach
explaining that combining different scales is required for the programme
to implement sustainable, efficient interventions. By using this multi-scalar
outlook in its implementation, officials argued, the programme would be
more effective in combatting the isolation by which urban inequalities have
segregated and impoverished these neighbourhoods. Arguably, if such an
inter-scalar outlook was implemented with the aim to strengthening demo-
cracy, it would have deep consequences for población local organisations.
As argued above, expanding popular civil societys networks beyond nei-
ghbourhood boundaries is a crucial step for organisations to build more
encompassing political claims that seek broader impact.
Additionally, through a set of different concepts and ideas the NRP fra-
mes its interventions as socially and politically transformative. In some
of its statements and positions the programme seems to promote a radical
participatory urban planning approach. Since its beginnings, the program-
me sought to promote what MINVU officials call ‘citizenship urbanism’.
Interviewees formed in the fields of sociology and urban studies stressed
this concept more emphatically. MINVU officials explained that, rooted in
Salvador Giner’s scholarly work, the term citizenship urbanism involves an
evolution from the traditional conception of the city as a functional arran-
gement of spaces and settlements serving industrial society. Instead, this
new citizenship urbanism emerges from people’s collective empowerment
to define and construct their city. Against top-down policy implementa-
tion, Giner (1993, p. 19) emphasises that the state should foster the ‘decen-
tralized (acéfala) and plural construction of political reality’ incorporating
all interest groups. Echoing other ministry officials, one interviewee exp-
lained that ‘citizenship urbanism is a social construction of physical space
that belongs to citizens and is built by citizens’, and another said ‘it’s about
putting people’s empowerment first, for them [neighbours] to organise and
construct their neighbourhoods’. Similarly, one of the programme’s reports
describes this as ‘a change of focus’ and ‘a new type of urbanism’, which
is meant to be ‘local, inclusive, participatory and just’ and constitutes citi-
zens’ ‘opportunity to build more just cities and put our human condition at
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the centre of people’s agenda’ (MINVU, 2010a, p. 22).
Although relatively marginal in the programme’s documents, these claims
touch upon a scholarly tradition that goes far beyond Giner’s Catalan
school on the sociology of citizenship. Inspired in the widely influential
contributions of Henry Lefebvre and Hannah Arendt, these assertions
show a radical and deeply democratic approach to urban communities. In
order to authentically advance those ideals, the programme would unders-
tand people’s engagement in local assemblies as an opportunity to advance
democracy. In other words, it would promote not only the involvement of
community members in decisions regarding their neighbourhoods, but it
would also strengthen popular civil society by fostering their ability to de-
mand institutional accountability, question policies, build new networks,
and implement innovative initiatives.
Nevertheless, an analysis of the metaphors by which the NRP conceives
sociability in its principles and strategies of implementation, contradicts
these radical, democratic ideals. In fact, the programme’s metaphors res-
trict democracy by focusing only on the efficiency of public policy to con-
nect sociability and territory. Two metaphors organise the programme’s
assumptions on sociability. First, sociability is understood as an asset.
According to this metaphor, enhancing sociability and public engagement
provides exogenous benefits for public policy. Second, the programme con-
ceives territory as a container of the social. Put more concretely, the NRP
understands the neighbourhoods that it intervenes as spaces capable of
containing-holding, gaining, or loosing-social interactions, interpersonal
trust, collective initiatives, as well as other social phenomena.
Assets should be understood as cash, services or items that directly or indi-
rectly contribute to future revenues or benefits. The idea that social interac-
tions function as an asset is rooted in theories of social capital. In fact, al-
though the programme did not operate with this concept in its early stages,
several interviewees recognised basing many of their current assertions on
it. Since its origins, social capital has been conceived as a tool to improve
people’s well-being (Hanifan, 1916). Although with different approaches,
main social capital theorists-Bourdieu, Coleman, and Putnam-have defi-
ned the concept as a set of lasting, accumulable social relations and networ-
ks by which agents gain access to other benefits. Putnam’s (1994) claim, that
social capital also improves institutional efficiency, has been particularly
inspiring to public policy developers. Similarly, research on neighbour-
hood developing has highlighted the potential of social capital promotion
for boosting efficient social cohesion and public policy implementation (Fo-
rrest, 2009; Forrest & Kearns, 2001; Kearns & Parkinson, 2001).
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Accordingly, the programme openly conceptualises the sociability it seeks
to foster as an asset. An early ministry report that inspired much of the
NRP’s early design, for example, explains the social and infrastructural
challenges in Chilean underprivileged neighbourhoods to be intervened
in terms of asset deficits (MINVU, 2006). It defines assets as ‘existing re-
sources available to homes, people, or communities, whose mobilisation
provides access to mobility and well-being, or protects people from the
risks of exclusion and the barriers of progress’(MINVU, 2006, p. 14). Assets
include ‘human capital, physical capital, and social capital, whose absence
or poor quality creates vulnerability’ (MINVU, 2006, p. 14). Later, another
NRP document defining neighbourhood typologies frames neighbourhood
assets as ‘social organisations, respected socially beneficial leaders… mi-
cro-entrepreneurship, and others’ (MINVU, 2010b, p. 25). Similarly, exp-
laining a case study of regeneration, a report from the Regional Ministry
Office and the Alberto Hurtado University states that ‘the historical trajec-
tory of neighbourhood social participation constitutes a highly relevant so-
cial asset’ (SEREMI Metroplitana de Vivienda y Urbanismo & Observatorio
Social UAH, 2008, p. 38). Other documents from the programme confirm
this metaphor by also explicitly equating sociability and assets (e.g. MIN-
VU, 2009a, p. 80, 2010, p. 184). Ministry officials used this same metaphor.
One of them echoed others by defining social interactions as assets. ‘Nei-
ghbourhood assets’, he said, are ‘social networks as well as local leaders’.
Another interviewee equated assets and social interactions when s/he ex-
plained their potential to maximise the NRP intervention’s future benefits.
Investing in sociability is like obtaining ‘machines that make machines’,
she/he said. Consequently, the informant specified, strengthening social
interactions makes the programme’s intervention ‘more productive’.
Through this idea of asset, ministry officials bring the abstraction and com-
plexity of social relations to the concrete level of services, goods, cash, or
other items. Consequently, this metaphor allows the programme to set side
by side, at the same level of abstraction, sociability-i.e. interpersonal trust,
local identity, cohesion, leaders, security, number and density of associa-
tions, and others-and elements of infrastructure or service provision-e.g.
garbage bins, lighting, maintenance of squares, land availability, neigh-
bourhood football pitches, etc.-all of which are understood to be potentia-
lly subjected to the programme’s intervention in underprivileged neigh-
bourhoods. One of the interviewees, for example, explained that the NRP
should take into account ‘not only infrastructure, but also identity assets
and organizational assets’. Similarly, one of the programme’s documents is
particularly explicit in equating those elements. It suggests that neighbour-
hood resources should be understood as ‘social organizations, respected
socially positive leaders, the existence of facilities, the stock of available
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land, the quality of work force, [among others]’ (MINVU, 2010, p. 25).
Framing sociability as a neighbourhood asset simplifies thought processes
and communication within the team of ministry officials. The NRP concei-
ves neighbourhood sociability as one more issue of potential investment.
As one interviewee argued, this metaphorical reduction not only makes so-
cial interactions fit in budget plans, but it also functions as part the team’s
common language. She/he explained that, reducing sociability to an asset
allows ministry officials to ‘share a language with the same underlying
strategies’ overcoming their disciplinary differences as well as their diver-
gent working experiences. Arguably, this common language makes it easier
to communicate and mentally represent the translation between economic
and social capital.
A second metaphor developed by the NRP is that of the neighbourhood
as a container of sociability. Although it is not fully explicit in the NRP’s
narratives, this metaphor underlies the programme’s assumptions defining
the territorial boundaries in which sociability develops. Interviews and
documents reveal that ministry officials understand the neighbourhood
as a specific space capable of accumulating and activating the assets that
the programme seeks to invest on. For example, one interviewee stressed
that ‘some neighbourhoods hold more organisations, more leaders and ne-
tworks’. Referring to the neighbourhood’s capacity to strategically contain
assets (e.g. sociability), one of them also told me ‘we place our chips in the
neighbourhoods’, and another one said ‘it is easier for people to come to
agreements at that [neighbourhood] level, so we must put our investment
in them [neighbourhoods]’. In fact, in order to measure each neighbour-
hood’s regenerating potential, NRP officials wrote a report operationali-
sing sociability as something absolutely confined to the neighbourhood
scale. According to that report, sociability combines ‘neighbours’ percep-
tions on their neighbourhood’s image, the levels of existing neighbourhood
association, the neighbourhood organisational perception, participation
and neighbourhood social relations, and the analysis of variables of so-
cial vulnerability such as socio-demographic and economic variables’-all of
which, according to this report, do not escape neighbourhood boundaries
(MINVU, 2010, p. 13).
MINVU officials conceive the neighbourhood as a highly strategic scale
to maximise policy outcomes. They understand the neighbourhood as a
particularly efficient scale to invest on social interventions because, on the
one hand, it provides people with the required proximity to activate social
networks and develop public engagement. One official, for example, told
me: ‘investing in neighbourhoods makes sense, it’s a level in which you can
really promote participation and see changes’. Another one explained that
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‘the neighbourhood allows you to break a little bit the difficulties imposed
by not knowing the other personally’ and she/he added ‘you can have more
equality, complicity and mutual respect within the neighbourhood’. On the
other hand, they perceive the neighbourhood to be a scale at which state
intervention can more clearly impact local population and infrastructure.
‘[At the neighbourhood level] citizens can truly interact with the state’, one
official told me to explain how the local scale allows state agencies to more
effectively connect with local organisations. Similarly, another one echoed
other interviewees by saying that ‘working at the neighbourhood level lets
you see the changes that the programme makes right away’. Programme
documents and interviews combine this emphasis on the strategic quality
of the neighbourhood scale with neglecting other, external sources of so-
ciability. In fact, allusions to social interactions, organisations, collective
identity, leadership, and other manifestations of sociability beyond neigh-
bourhood boundaries, are largely absent from programme documents, as
well as from ministry officials’ narratives.
Organisations, networks and leadership within the neighbourhood are
prior assets that predict success for the programme. If social capital is poor
in a neighbourhood to be intervened, the programme plans a set of mee-
tings, events and outcomes to boost the communitys sense of identity. The
programme frames this identity as specifically confined to the neighbour-
hood. Its documents clearly specify that, in order to enhance people’s sense
of neighbourhood belonging and cohesiveness, the programme should re-
build their neighbourhood’s history (MINVU, 2009b). This is, again, a way of
circumscribing all sociability within the boundaries of the neighbourhood.
The NRP’s position within the ministry demonstrates that policy makers
and politicians have used this metaphor since the programme’s inception.
By depending directly from the Ministry’s Deputy Secretary, the Neigh-
bourhood Development Executive Secretariat-which oversees the NRP-com-
bines large responsibility with relatively high rigidity in its actions. This
Secretariat is in charge of implementing programmes in neighbourhoods,
villages, secluded settlements or condos, and informal settlements. Thus,
its action frame is restricted to specific settlements within clear bounda-
ries. Administratively, the NRP is bound to limit its mind set and actions to
the neighbourhoods defined as its fields of intervention. Had the program-
me been created as part of the Ministrys Urban Development Division-a
department within the MINVU that conceives urban development more
broadly-its field of action would be more flexibly defined and could more
easily include areas beyond the neighbourhood limits.
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Exceptionally, a couple of interviewees recognised and critically assessed
this metaphor. They suggest that the programme ‘should not work only
within the neighbourhood polygon, not all neighbourhood issues belong to
that specific area’. By planning to design ‘priority zones’ that include larger
portions of the c ity surrounding the s elected neighbourhoods, these MINV U
officials aimed to equip the NRP’s intervention with broader, external tools
to address local issues. Through these ‘priority zones’ the programme could
provide the neighbourhood community with solutions that exceed that scale
of action. The NRP could, for example, request intervening public transpor-
tation routes to improve the neighbourhood’s connectivity. While critical
and innovative, this solution did not alter the metaphorical logic by which
state intervention conceives a specif ic territory as the container of soc iability.
7. RESTRICTING DEMOCRACY
Ultimately, the NRP seeks to advance democracy by promoting a type of
governance based on deliberation and social inclusion. The programme’s
metaphors revised above-sociability as an asset and the neighbourhood
as a container of sociability-define the function and boundaries whereby
the NRP frames its promotion of local social organisation. In approaching
citizen participation through a strategic and pragmatic lens, the NRP meta-
phors provide the conditions to build cooperative solutions to concrete is-
sues at the local level. Collective decision making among local dwellers-in-
volving meetings, conflicts, and negotiations-is part of the sociability asset
production process that the NRP hopes to activate in each neighbourhood.
In a context of highly unequal access to the city, the NRP’s urban regenera-
tion is a way of incorporating historically excluded population in the urban
and social fabric.
However, this framing of governance as inclusive, efficient, strategic and
problem solving is not enough to deepen democracy. Thought through
the metaphors explained above, sociability serves public policy in a linear
manner. The programme points out that, by enhancing sociability, invest-
ment on social policy implementation becomes more efficient. Accordingly,
MINVU officials conceive sociability ‘healthy’ and ‘responsible’ only when
it feeds the programme’s specific purposes. In fact, during interviews they
highlighted that the NRPs task is to ‘educate people’ in order to build more
‘responsible participation’. Responsible participation, interviews unvei-
led, involves three principles. First, responsible citizens develop as public
agents. For the programme, participation only results from residents’ so-
cial engagement in their neighbourhood. Public engagement develops with
other residents in the proximity and identity provided by neighbourhood
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life, the programme suggests. Conversely, private life is framed as discon-
nected from others, as a disinterest from collective endeavours. The pu-
blic realm for ministry officials is ‘going outside of their houses to be with
others’, in other words, it means residents spending time outside of their
houses, spending time with other neighbours in squares and other neigh-
bourhood spaces. One of the NRPs reports, for example, frames the pro-
gramme’s goal as helping residents ‘recovering a sense of what is public,
living together as a community and helping [them] identify with their nei-
ghbourhood’ (MINVU, 2010, p. 47). Similarly, a ministry official explained
that public engagement means ‘participating in your surroundings, in your
neighbourhood, in the neighbourhood committee and its causes’. Scholars
such as Arendt and Mouffe have warned us of the perils involved in taking
the private-public dichotomy too seriously. They argue that conceiving the
private and public realms as opposite generally involves depoliticising
social interactions. Private experiences-such as the family or friends-not
only have a powerful impact on people’s political socialisation, but they
also provide opportunities for people to reshape their public incorporation
(Brennan, 2017; Mouffe, 1992).
Neglecting the private as a space in which social interactions may also have
political relevance means acting by denying that other, informal types of
sociability-which escape the sight of government bureaucrats-may have a
strong influence in people’s local construction of belonging and political
engagement. Referring to the impact of television in black identity cons-
truction and rap music in the US, Shapiro (1997) has argued that despite
seemingly enclosed in the private sphere, the use of new technologies tend
to open opportunities of social innovation that fruitfully connect the pri-
vate and the public. Accordingly, by emphasising public neighbourhood
sociability, MINVU officials fail to recognise alternative, highly prolific
forms of social engagement. In interviews, some of them, for example, hi-
ghlighted what they saw as the irrelevance of the Internet and digital social
networks to promote local sociability. ‘The Internet is everywhere today,
but it is rather impersonal; participation in neighbourhoods is truly more
personal’, one of them said to express the sterility of those technologies for
the programme’s aim. My own experience using Facebook and Whatsapp
as well as other social network platforms as tools to connect with local you-
th organisations during my fieldwork in underprivileged Chilean neigh-
bourhoods, contradicts these claims by MINVU officials. Ministry officials
also recognised the programme’s difficulty to connect with and involve
the youth. However, the NRP’s strict metaphorical assumptions can hardly
attract individuals that seek to innovate and whose identity development
often requires merging the private and the public.
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Second, responsible citizens know how to ‘understand the state’. This
means engaging in local collaborative endeavours in partnership with sta-
te institutions. Hence, local residents are not meant to only participate in
deliberative local governance processes, but they are expected to gain an
insight into the institutional challenges of participatory governability in
order to ‘learn to empathise with the state’. In other words, in their interac-
tion with state officials, residents involved in the NRP’s deliberative pro-
cedures should learn how to face in a constructive manner the frustrations
of the process resulting from institutional limitations-i.e. administrative
difficulties, bureaucratic restrictions, limited funding, timing rigidities,
and others. This idea of responsible participation, therefore, contradicts the
construction of an empowered, autonomous civil society, which is capable
of challenging institutions to make political representatives accountable.
Third, responsible citizens look after their neighbourhood-especially those
areas refurbished by the NRP. The programme’s deliberative process seeks
to enhance residents’ attachment with their neighbourhood. It presupposes
that by becoming active agents in the programme’s local decision-making
process, residents will strengthen their sense of neighbourhood belonging
and will acquire a feeling of ownership toward the implemented infras-
tructure improvements. In the words of one interviewee: ‘for me citizen
responsibility means that when neighbours participate in generating the
project, then they say “I said that this [improvement] was the most neces-
sary, so I will look after it and if my grandchild wants to damage it I will
tell him not to do it”’. In this framework citizens are responsible for suppor-
ting the sustainability of public policy implementation. Consequently, this
conception escapes others in which citizens organise to exercise the power
required to decide on the policies to be implemented, acting locally but
exceeding the local context.
8. CONCLUSIONS
Accounts on social demobilisation in post-dictatorial Chile have explained
the deactivation of civil society from two angles. While some scholars have
studied how public policy implementation has politically excluded civil
society, others have examined the micro dynamics by which the interac-
tion between the state and local organisations results in the deactivation of
collective initiatives. By looking at how top policy makers conceive sociabi-
lity promotion, this paper contributes with a novel perspective to these aca-
demic accounts on Chilean collective action and democracy construction.
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The paper examines the metaphors by which officials designing and coordi-
nating the NRP frame sociability in the programme’s urban interventions.
Seeking to tackle inequality and urban exclusion, the NRP explicitly plans
developing local deliberative processes to enhance sociability in many of
Chile’s most marginalised and neglected neighbourhoods. The article ar-
gued that, despite its commitment with building a more inclusive city, the
NRP is not designed and implemented under conceptions of governance
that advance a deepening of local democracy. Policy makers’ conception
of sociability as purely instrumental for policy efficiency curtails the pro-
gramme’s potential of community empowerment capacity building, this
research suggests.
The careful revision of government documents and a set of interviews with
key government officials revealed that two metaphors organised the NRP’s
assumptions regarding sociability. The first metaphor conceives sociability
as an asse t and the second one conceives neighbourhoods as containers of t he
social. By merely servi ng the efficienc y of public policy, the notion of sociabil i-
ty result ing from these two metaphors combined restr icts democracy. Conse-
quently, this a nalysis shows, NRP’s metaphors neglect citizen empowerment.
By thinking of sociability as an asset, policy makers equate social inte-
ractions with other sorts of infrastructural equipment, goods or services.
Reducing sociability to one more investment item simplifies internal com-
munication as well as budget decisions. Moreover, conceptualising social
interventions as asset-enhancing provides policy makers with the confi-
dence of invariably investing in profitable, efficient community capital. Si-
milarly, framing neighbourhoods as containers of sociability responds to
ministry officials’ need to enhance policy efficiency. In fact, they conceive
the neighbourhood as the ideally strategic space for building and streng-
thening local social ties in today’s highly disintegrated society. This paper
provides evidence showing that the organisational position of the NRP wi-
thin the MINVU is not only based on these metaphors, but it also makes
changing these assumptions in order to broaden the programme’s defini-
tion of sociability highly challenging.
Governance seeking to deepen democracy fulfils three goals: it strengthens
grassroots organisations by promoting their autonomy and oversight capa-
cities, it achieves practical local solutions through processes of horizontal
deliberation, and it fosters civil society’s engagement in decision-making
processes with broader consequences for democracy. Arguably, the NRP’s
metaphors support deliberative processes of local democracy. By approa-
ching neighbourhood participation with a strategic and pragmatic pers-
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pective, the NRP metaphors build the conditions to collectively generate
solutions for concrete local issues. However, in line with Greaves (2004),
evidence suggests that these metaphors support a restrictive notion of de-
mocracy, by which government officials intend to impose top-down defi-
nitions of democracy and responsible participation on local población or-
ganisations. Ultimately, metaphor analysis suggests, the idea of sociability
constructed by the NRP only serves policy implementation in a linear man-
ner. Sociability here is not a tool for citizen empowerment, for strengthe-
ning social accountability, or for building impact beyond neighbourhood
boundaries. Civil society is understood as an extension of public policies,
not as what authors such as Edwards (2011) and Oxhorn (2003) have charac-
terised as the autonomous and diverse political body driving social change
in healthy democracies.
This study has had important limitations. Interviews were carefully and
strategically selected to reach key government officials. However, inter-
views should be more numerous and reach lower sections of the MINVU
to explain how these metaphors operate in the NRP’s implementation on
the ground. Additionally, comparative research should, on the one hand,
shed light on the metaphorical challenges of other policies and program-
mes; on the other hand, it should use successful cases to build lessons on
the democratic fertility of the assumptions underlying policy design and
implementation.
Future research should seek to determine which conceptions of sociability
promote a type of governance that deepens democracy. Arguably, studies
concerned with governance deepening democracy should strategize on
how sociability can empower local communities. To this end, it is firstly
crucial to incorporate ideas of informality to the governance equation in
state programme implementation. Consequently, future research should
examine the potential of informal governance strategies for strengthening
democracy at the local level.
Complementing formal varieties of governance, informal governance ope-
rates through unwritten rules and informal, horizontal networks. Informal
governance works by creating ‘semi-official arenas’, which are open to all
actors that can either be affected by a certain policy or that may contribu-
te with resources in the decision making-process. Participation, under the
informal governance framework, is not predefined and cannot be publicly
enforced. Informal governance bodies can arise spontaneously, as initiati-
ves coordinated by interest groups, or they can be institutionally initiated
and sponsored. Although informal governance has its pitfalls and disad-
60
2 | Policy Metaphors and Deep Local Democracy: the Case of the...
Simón Escoer Martínez
vantages, evidence suggests that its adequate application is key to formu-
lating innovative political strategies and policy programmes (Ayres, 2017;
Christiansen & Piattoni, 2003). The strong potential of informal governance
in processes of deep democracy lays in it conceiving sociability as par-
tially escaping formal deliberative processes or policy implementation. In
other words, n order to deepen democracy, scholarly research as well as
policy making should incorporate this informal aspect to its conception of
sociability. Arguably, research advancing those goals would result in par-
ticipatory policies that are more oriented to providing the conditions and
resources for emergent grassroots initiatives, instead of seeking to impose
top-down definitions of citizenship and democracy in order to secure po-
licy efficiency.
61
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