Antinomies of Empowerment: Observations on Civil Society, Politics and Urban Governance in India

, by  Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), HARRISS John

Since the 1990s, and coinciding with the onset of liberalisation, a « new politics » aimed at associating the hithertodisempoweredwith aspects of governance appears to have takenshape across India’s urban, especially its metropolitan,centers. « Civilsociety » organisations that seek to make politics more accountable to the « consumer citizen », are invariably,as this study based in the city of Chennai argues, middle class dominated, and while working to bridge the democratic gap between the ruling class and the governed, do not really involve themselves in primary concerns of the « urbanpoor ». That the urban poor then have no option but to seek the redressal of their concerns by associating themselves with political parties is just one of several contradictionsthat this new politics throws up.

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