Citizen participation is often regarded as a means to increase local democracy. Seldom is participation viewed as a means to legitimate disruptive practices of states. However, participation can become a tool for the effective implementation of policy rather than a means to enhance justice, if no power is transferred to citizens. Displacement in Amsterdam is a case in point. Here the local council together with housing corporations yearly forces over 2,000 households to leave their houses, a consequence of an ambitious policy of state-led gentrification. Following Foucault, I explore the rationalities and techniques employed to ensure compliance. The promise of influence lures tenants into lengthy discussions with power holders. Investment choices are presented as objective facts and so provide a rationale for the disruptive interventions. Participation thus provides government a platform to impose its views in a context of severe power asymmetries, while alternatives are marginalised and dissent is disciplined.
- Citizen participation - Amsterdam - ethnography - displacement - gentrification