Becoming a member of the “Conseil citoyen”. The adoption of roles in a “Conseil citoyen” in Paris

Special report—Citizens’ committees: A lot of fuss about nothing?
By Guillaume Petit, Mario Bilella, William Arhip-Paterson

This article is the result of a collective study of a “Conseil citoyen” in Paris between winter 2016 and autumn 2018. Based on repeated observations and interviews, we analyze the institutionalization of this participative organization from the angle of the councilors adopting their new role. How does one become a citizen councilor? Which social resources do individuals rely on to appropriate and fulfil this role? During an initial phase when the organization of the structure remains undetermined, certain councilors decide to establish the council as an official association. This step constitutes a turning point in the formalization of the role of citizen councilors and in the division of work within the institution, between those at the head of the association and the other members. The heterogeneous nature of the councilors’ aims and commitments and the ensuing struggle to define what their role entails, eventually leads to a relatively stable definition of the role being imposed by certain members. This process brings about various behaviors from adaptation to protest, which we relate to the participants’ social trajectory and their personal qualities, in order to explain the reproduction of social hierarchies and modes of domination. This assessment can be explained by the lack of resources associated directly with the role, that facilitates, or even makes it necessary, to bring in previously acquired competences.

  • institutionalization
  • role
  • conseils citoyens
  • urban policies
  • participatory democracy
  • Paris
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