Consulting as a threat to local democracy? Flexible management consultants, pacified citizens, and political tactics of strategic development in German cities
These days, it is often claimed that democratic procedures are under threat. The detachment of policy decisions from political debates is partly a result of the increasing influence of non-elected organizations and experts. Following a conceptual discussion of the spatiality of democracy, this paper focuses on management consultants as constraint on collective political participation in urban development; namely on McKinsey and Roland Berger. (De-)democratization is assessed alongside processes of inclusion and exclusion of both topics and people from political decisions. Based on a comparison of strategy-making projects in six German cities, the findings reveal three different types of urban policymaking ranging between expert-led and participatory versions. Despite the differences, each of the projects relied on a notion of passive citizens, who primarily need to be “gotten on board” and who lack the power to make decisions. This paper exposes the political tactics involved in an expert-influenced curtailment of democratic procedures.
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