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Transport policy and public involvement

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This paper examines the possibility of establishing a public space of deliberation concerning transport policy. It deals with the question of whether it is possible to envisage instances of concertation that deflect conflict. Based mostly on French experience with public inquiries on transport infrastructure, it discusses the relevance and applicability of the sociology of collective action, as well as theories of deliberative democracy. The paper's main argument is that concertation does not occur in a vacuum but is instead structured by power relations. It is, therefore, first and foremost an opportunity to express dissatisfaction and frustration. At the same time, public debate represents--perhaps for the same reason--an opportunity to criticize forms of social domination. It thus may give rise to citizen mobilization rather than help contain it, as is often naively expected by its promoters within the public policy administration. Conflict is thus always the actual subject of public debate.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

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