Participation and Democracy: Dynamics, Causes and Consequences of Elite-Challenging Activities

  • This empirical study focuses on the expanded political action repertoire of citizens in democracies, examining three aspects of elite-challenging activities: their dynamics over time, their determinants and their democratic consequences. Elite-challenging activities are short-term, issue-oriented forms of participation from below, ranging from petitioning to demonstrating to engaging in acts of political consumerism. Covering 70 societies that vary greatly in their economic, social and political characteristics, the study tests competing hypotheses derived from several theoretical approaches in participation research and democratic theory. The analyses are based on a broad empirical database, combining information from different large-scale cross-national surveys (ESS 2002-04, EVS/WVS 1981-2005, Pol. Action Study 1974). The study yields the following results. First, it contradicts the thesis of declining citizen activism in contemporary democracies. Second, it confirms that elite-challenging activities do not proceed at the expense of other forms of political participation (voting, conventional participation) or social activities. Third, contrary to the social capital approach, elite-challenging activities are a result of the productivity of social capital (networks and trust), both at the individual and societal level, and not an indication of declining social capital. Fourth, in line with modernization theory, participation in elite-challenging activities is driven by individual characteristics (self-expression values and political interest) and societal opportunity structures/resources (modernization). Finally, the study argues that elite-challenging participation is beneficial for democracy: Elite-challenging activities are mainly exercised by those who value democracy for its process, not material benefits. Moreover, in societies where pressure from below is high, elite behavior tends to be more transparent and less corrupt.

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Publishing Institution:IRC-Library, Information Resource Center der Jacobs University Bremen
Granting Institution:Jacobs Univ.
Author:Franziska Deutsch
Referee:Christian Welzel, Klaus Boehnke, Ferdinand Müller-Rommel
Advisor:Christian Welzel
Persistent Identifier (URN):urn:nbn:de:101:1-201307119288
Document Type:PhD Thesis
Date of Successful Oral Defense:2009/06/29
Date of First Publication:2011/02/04
PhD Degree:Political Science
School:SHSS School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Library of Congress Classification:J Political Science / JF Political institutions and public administration / JF20-1177 General. Comparative government / JF799-1177 Political rights. Political participation / JF799 General works
Call No:Thesis 2009/58

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