Political Participation

The structural changes in post-industrial urban transformation have been an indispensable element of the history of citizen participation in Vienna. Since the mid-1970s, the longstanding process of the city’s administrative restructuring has engendered new norms and rules of participation in urban governance. A series of reforms toward participatory local governance in Vienna has emerged from multifaceted forms of consensus-building and dispute-resolution, which have been initiated by different stakeholders at different stages of the overall decentralization process. Incorporation of private- and civil society actors into the governance process has occurred in different social, economic, and political contexts of the city’s post-Fordist transformation, which has generated new modes of empowerment and social inclusion, on the one hand, yet also new dimensions of social exclusion, on the other hand.

The different degrees of power within the public-private partnership necessitates a closer look into the varying trajectories of participation and deliberation in urban governance, which have facilitated, but also, at the same time, limited inclusion of the private sphere in the planning- and decision-making procedure. While formal and informal participatory platforms for private- and civil society actors have continuously expanded in the past decades, the organizational structures of both top-down initiatives and bottom-up mobilizations to foster active participation have shown bureaucratic inefficiency and structural inequalities. In addition to the nebulous formulation of non-binding direct democratic devices, new modes of participation, such as petition; Local Agenda; and Neighborhood Management, have also exhibited limited inclusion of disadvantaged social groups. A disproportionate distribution of participatory opportunities in limited urban areas, such as in the inner-city districts, for example, exemplifies the spatial inaccessibility to active participation that derives from the city’s intraurban inequalities.