The masks of representation. La démocratie de proximité
and participatory systems in selected french cities
The 2002 act on the «democracy of proximity» in France has renovated the interest of scholars and local policy-makers around participatory mechanisms. As a consequence, a large number of municipalities are experimenting neighbourhood councils, consultative assemblies and inclusive problem-solving practices. The article is focused on the implications of these new mechanisms on local democracy and evaluates their effects on a decision-making process traditionally based on the centrality of political representation. It argues that far from being an expression of democratic innovation, such experiments are but an attempt by local leaders to recover from a (perceived) decrement of legitimacy through the offer of a «new» version of their role.