The Repertoire of Unconventional Participation: Lessons From the European Social Survey

The Repertoire of Unconventional Participation: Lessons From the European Social Survey

Christophe Emmanuel Premat (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3677-3.ch011
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It is common to describe political identity using surveys that address cultural values. The construction of indicators by mixing answers to a set of questions then becomes a relevant method when taking a behavioral approach. Scholars such as Ronald Inglehart or Pippa Norris have been engaged in longitudinal studies using two important series of surveys; World Values Survey and European Social Survey Aggregate data enabled them to perceive strong trends in different societies in the world, which is why they linked the evolution of political identity with the shift of cultural values in western societies towards post-materialistic post-1970s. This finding might explain why citizens cared more about issues such as environmental protection, quality of life, and personal and cultural development instead of simply economic security, growth, and stability of power relations. The present study analyzes the repertoire of unconventional participation of European citizens with the data from European Social Survey.
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The “participatory revolution” in Western countries has often been described as a change of values linked to a demand for more inclusiveness in political systems (Kaase, 1982). The term participatory means here that many citizens choose alternative ways to have their say in politics (Campbell, 2003, p. 8). The numerous studies conducted by behaviourist sociologists such as Ronald Inglehart or Pippa Norris confirmed the hypothesis that there had been a shift in values at the end of the 1970s thanks to the analysis of waves of surveys such as the World Values Survey and the European Social Survey1. The use of aggregate data was necessary in order to describe long-term trends in different societies (Tavarageri et al. 2018). Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris described the emergence of post-materialistic values that were no longer guided by the securing of economic satisfaction in Western societies (Inglehart, Norris, 2003). Some topics are prevalent for these values, such as environmental protection, quality of life, personal and cultural development which characterise the condition of post-industrial societies (de Moor, 2017; Burgess, 2006, p. 203). There are lively debates between theoreticians of traditional liberal democratic systems and promoters of deliberative democracy who describe the emergence of a new participatory culture where citizens snatch at opportunities to influence political decisions (Dryzek, 2001; Fishkin, 2009; Goodin, 2012).

In the field of political science, the analysis of post-materialistic values is rather expressed by relations to political authority, citizen creativity with the invention of new participatory tools, and relationships to traditional political structures such as political parties and associations (Norris, 1999; Taniguchi, 2006). Recent research on the four waves of cross-cultural European Social Survey (1981-2004) emphasized the rapid transformation of values in post-industrial societies, where citizens do not need to fight for survival (Halman et al., 2007, p. 5; Quaranta, 2015). Citizens have their say in politics; with both globalisation and evolution of technologies intensifying this claim (Norris, 2001). As far as political participation is concerned, the distinction between conventional participation and unconventional participation has been used in research (Milbrath, Goel, 1977; Verba, Nie, 1972). In fact, political participation is an “umbrella concept” (Huntington, Nelson, 1974, p. 14; Guldikova, Santagati, 2000), which includes all kinds of political engagement, whether the legal framework is respected or not. Political participation can be seen as “voluntary activities by ordinary citizens directed towards influencing, directly or indirectly, political outcomes at various levels of the political system” (de Rooij et al., 2014, p. 187).

Conventional participation is commonly defined by the institutional interaction between citizens and government through elections or meetings with politicians (de Rooij et al., 2014, p. 186). However, this distinction might be contested as formerly illegal instruments of participation can become institutionalised and then considered as conventional tools (Ekman, Amnå, 2012, p. 285). It might be more accurate to distinguish tools offered by political elites and innovative modes of citizen actions to put pressure on the political system (Bernhagen, Marsh, 2007; McLean, McMillan, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Dissatisfaction: Feeling of political frustration where individuals react to a given situation. The dissatisfaction can be general when it concerns the whole political system or it can be specific when it comes to the consequences of a political reform.

Exit: Strategy of rupture where people decide to quit the organization to avoid a conflict with the leaders or because the conflict with the leaders does not lead to any collective solution.

European Social Survey: Research project that collects series of longitudinal data on cultural values in Europe ( ).

Conventional Participation: Participation in the legal system through elections and contacts with politicians.

Post-Industrial Societies: State of societies where industry has been less visible and where services are one of the main occupations of the individuals. Even though industry is still the base for the economic development of these societies, individuals have a general economic satisfaction on the whole.

Boycott: Attitude of individuals that deliberately refuse to consume a product or take part in an event.

Direct Democracy: Political system where citizens can affect political decisions through popular initiatives, referenda and sometimes recall procedures when they are allowed.

Unconventional Participation: Alternative tools that can influence the political agenda and put pressure on politicians outside the electoral system.

Slacktivism: Political visibility of people online without deep engagement.

Lawful Demonstration: Event in which people gather to protest against or support a political decision.

World Values Survey: Research project that collects series of longitudinal data on cultural values around the world ( ).

Petitions: Texts that are addressed to political leaders to change a decision or set a new problem on the political agenda.

Disappointment: Emotion due to the contrast between expectations and reality.

Voice: It is when people express a disagreement about a political decision or leaders. According to the model developed by Hirschman, the voice refers to the participation of individuals that try to affect the political decisions of an organization.

Loyalty: It describes the relation of trust and respect between individuals and leaders. The system of mutual trust is expressed by a form of loyalty that works in both directions. Loyalty obliges people to mutual commitments.

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