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Exploring justice in the process of redesigning local development strategies for LEADER: Representation, distribution, and recognition

After its first funding period from 1991 to 1994, LEADER was positively evaluated as a successful strategy to empower actors at the regional level, enable regional development and contribute to territorial cohesion within the European Union. Critical studies, however, have highlighted elitist tendencies in LEADER processes and asked whether the proclaimed goal of strengthening ‘the local’ contributes to new or other forms of social and spatial injustice. Our research focus lies in how representation, distribution, and recognition—as the three interrelated dimensions of justice according to Nancy Fraser—are featured in the discourse related to redesigning a local development strategy (LDS). During this process, which is conceived as the most open and inclusive phase in each LEADER funding period, we conducted expert interviews and participatory observations in a case study region and gathered media reports, documents, and official regulations. In our analysis of issues of representation, distribution, and recognition, we also focus on the spatial scales that are referred to and the ways in which the involved actors challenge and justify the status quo. Our analysis explicates the actors’ implicit normative understandings as well as their different perspectives and positions considering perceived injustice. Even though the LDS process provides opportunities to negotiate these positions and to work towards more just representation, distribution, and recognition, they are partly constrained by structural and individual dependencies.



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