Despite increasing interest in how involvement in local government can improve governance and lead to civic renewal, questions remain about participation's real impact. This book investigates participatory budgeting-a mainstay now of World Bank, UNDP, and USAID development programs-to ask whether its reforms truly make a difference in deepening democracy and empowering civil society. Looking closely at eight cities in Brazil, comparing those that carried out participatory budgeting reforms between 1997 and 2000 with those that did not, the authors examine whether and how institutional reforms take effect. Bootstrapping Democracy highlights the importance of local-level innovations and democratic advances, charting a middle path between those who theorize that globalization hollows out democracy and those who celebrate globalization as a means of fostering democratic values. Uncovering the state's role in creating an "associational environment," it reveals the contradictory ways institutional reforms shape the democratic capabilities of civil society and how outcomes are conditioned by relations between the state and civil society.