By William Boyce
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Additional resources for A Seat at the Table: Persons with Disabilities and Policy Making
One of the limitations of interest group theories has been their inadequate conceptualization of the role of the state. Traditionally, the state has been viewed as a neutral mediator (Latham 1952), as an equal player (Dahl 1961), or as a body primarily interested in maintaining the status quo (Alford 1975). These views do not explain the current tendency of the state to actively promote a social agenda that is based rhetorically on fundamental change, for the advancement of persons with disabilities.
Many students of Canadian politics attribute this increased influence to the growing second generation "rights consciousness" evident among disadvantaged groups in our society: citizens have a greater tendency to demand official governmental recognition and support of their concerns and entitlements using the specific language of constitutional rights. And, according to Alan Cairns (1990), the clauses of the Constitution that single out particular characteristics of citizens, such as those related to our multicultural heritage, our different languages, and our unique religious beliefs, create new 39 Constitutional Ferment civic and constitutional identities.
This definition reinforces the centrality of the issue of power in citizen participation. " Changes in political and economic relationships are also implied. The community is seen, not as a cohesive whole with mutual interests, but rather as a constellation 28 A Seat at the Table of distinct advantaged and disadvantaged groups. This definition of participation satisfies Pateman's general criteria, addresses both the organizational and empowerment purposes of participation, uses a structural perspective, and is applicable to many disadvantaged groups within communities.