AIMS: Against the background of an increased interest in community participation in political processes, the aim of this article is to critically examine how the “community” is constituted as a political entity in the Communities That Care drug prevention program.
METHOD: Through an examination of 13 publications written by the program developers of the program and other collaborators, I have analyzed the program’s theoretical foundation.
RESULTS: The program seeks to constitute the community as an expert community, drawing on the principles of prevention science in its decision making processes and thereby asserting the primacy of scientific reasoning in politics. Disagreement, otherwise regarded as the “essence” of democratic politics, is to be neutralized through the establishment of a common language based on prevention science. The program constitutes needs as existing independently of any culturally and politically informed interpretations and readily met by ready-tested, evidence-based interventions. By combining a consumer subject and an instrumental-rational subject, the program establishes a specific kind of democratic subject, expected to exert its choices on a market offering ready-made solutions to problems formulated outside of the community’s decision making processes.
CONCLUSION: The analysis points to a range of limitations and issues regarding how community empowerment and democratic participation are conceptualized in the program. By asserting the primacy of scientific reasoning in drug policy processes, the program sets limits to what counts as a political problem and which responses are deemed legitimate. This risks exerting significant closure on the ability of communities to speak in properly political terms.