Critically Assess Citizen Participation

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The end of the 20th Century saw nearly a decade of evolution and alteration in all of the policy and applied social sciences. Concern for individual participation in group, workplace and community organization, long dominated by social psychologists and human relations experts, was shaken from a limited, theoretical focus under new challenges from political scientists, social activists and advocates who were committed to building capacity among the citizenry, community empowerment and, more globally, building a more decentralized society. Recently, the works of Kretzman and McKnight challenges traditional limits by emphasizing an assets based approach to community analysis. So too, the critical observations of Harvard's Robert Putnam regarding the decline of civic culture, further stimulate contemporary thinking in the area of citizen participation and involvement, an action and research arena that is changing as we speak.

This essay will, assisted by appropriate exemplification, critically discuss citizen participation in public affairs in Zambia. It will define the concepts under study analytically before using suitable illustrations to discuss, at length, the levels and mechanisms of citizen participation in its entirety. It will then end in a soluble, inclusive conclusion that will summarize and put forth adequate recommendations relating to the discussed.

Participation in social science refers to diverse apparatuses used by the public to express opinions and exert influence regarding political, economic, management or other social decisions. Arnstein (1969) refers to citizen participation as a categorical term for citizen power. It is the redistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presently excluded from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately included in the future. More contemporary authors such as Summers (1987) define citizen participation as "the active involvement of citizens outside the electoral process in...
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