chapter  7
16 Pages

A Comparative Perspective on Collective Action and Community Change

In their essay on the dangers inherent in the trend towards localism in development

theory and practice, Mohan and Stokke (2000) differentiate between two

interpretations of the term ‘participatory development’. The first is a ‘revisionist

neoliberal’ interpretation which sees participation as based on a ‘harmony model of

power’ which implies that “the empowerment of the powerless [can] be achieved

without any significant negative effects upon the power of the powerful” (249). This

is the interpretation embodied in the ‘enablement’ discourse that has emerged from

the World Bank, and it is operationalized through a political agenda that divorces

participation at the grassroots level from a discussion of a policy or planning agenda

focused on redistribution of political or economic power. The context of a globalizing

city like Metro Manila highlights the contradictions in this perspective, as intense

competition and conflict over limited central land, and a struggle for state resources

and patronage, infuse all interactions between state, community, and private sector

interests. This book has argued that the revisionist neo-liberal theory of participation

as interpreted by many powerful actors and institutions in the Philippines has led in

most cases to the exclusion of communities from meaningful decision-making in the

implementation of reform.