The use of contracts to achieve public objectives has gained momentum since the 1980s. Dr. Stapper, Assistant Professor of Law and Governance at Tilburg Law School, examines the implications of the increased utilization of private legal instruments for participatory democracy in an article published recently at Urban Studies.
His research questions the concept of contracts and proposes a conceptual framework for analyzing contractual relationships in participatory processes. Subsequently, two case studies in Amsterdam and Hamburg are presented to illustrate the effects of contractual governance on participatory democracy in urban development.
Specifically, commercial entities and government agencies have their interests incorporated into contracts, while residents’ interests are integrated into non-legal agreements. These findings yield four implications for our comprehension of participatory democracy and urban politics.
Firstly, the locus of public decision-making has shifted from public meetings to contractual negotiations. Secondly, contracts are not immutable, as residents’ mobilization can influence, adapt, and politicize agreements. However, thirdly, residents must possess the ability to mobilize and negotiate, leading to the creation of new divisions between residents who can engage in deal-making and those who are excluded.
Lastly, studying the transformative nature of contracts in urban politics requires a comprehensive examination of how contractual relationships are formed, encompassing both non-legal and contractual agreements.