Assessing the Boundaries of Participatory Democracy within an Emancipatory Political Framework: The Case of Parish Development Committees in Jamaica
Thomas, Marc Anthony
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This dissertation empirically expands the existing knowledge on participatory democracy through a study of Jamaica's Parish Development Committees (PDCs). These groups offer an avenue for Jamaicans to inform government policy, and this analysis explored the extent to which supportive institutional, infrastructural and superstructural (referring to the society's culture and power configurations) conditions for robust implementation of this democratization initiative existed. This inquiry involved observing more than one hundred hours of PDC activities at locations across Jamaica and conducting sixty key informant and four focus group interviews with relevant stakeholders. The analysis was bolstered by an appreciation of emancipatory politics employed by the country's general population since slavery not only to survive oppression, but also to influence the nation's political agenda. Riots during slavery and in the present day, for example, have offered citizens an avenue towards self-determination. This study found that the emergence, survival and thriving of PDCs in Jamaica is determined largely by the extent to which emancipatory political tactics are successfully applied by PDC stakeholders to combat a number of continuing challenges in these committee's environments. The democratization initiative symbolized by the PDCs promotes inclusiveness yet is led predominantly by older, educated middle class individuals with talents and capacities garnered from several years of experience in various fields. The dissertation argues that the opportunity cost of a more inclusive order explains this fact, in that Jamaica's finite resources mean there is limited space for a learning curve and the cash strapped committees have only been able to survive when their members could help to defray the cost of their operations. The dissertation explores other central challenges confronting the PDCs and the strategies these participative organizations have employed to address each. Primarily, this analysis provides a micro-scale view of the interaction of the factors that have shaped the power and possibility of Jamaica's democratization initiative.
- Doctoral Dissertations