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Chapter

Cover Democratization

13. Conventional Citizen Participation  

Ian McAllister and Stephen White

This chapter examines the most visible and politically important act of conventional citizen participation: turning out to vote in a national election. Patterns of political participation are influenced by a variety of institutional factors, such as the type of electoral system and the number of political parties in a country, along with individual socioeconomic factors such as a person’s educational attainments or income. A particular problem in many previously authoritarian societies is the absence of a diverse civil society, so that the social trust upon which a healthy democracy depends is often absent. The chapter first considers various dimensions of political participation before discussing voter turnout in democratic countries. It then analyses the effects of institutional arrangements such as election rules, the type of electoral system, and the party system on political participation. Finally, it describes some of the factors that determine whether or not citizens participate in politics.

Chapter

Cover The Politics of the Earth

5. Leave It to the People  

Democratic Pragmatism

This chapter treats democracy as a way of approaching problems through involving a variety of interests and actors along with citizens in interactive problem solving within the basic institutional structure of liberal capitalist democracy. It is manifested in for example public consultation, alternative dispute resolution, policy dialogue, lay citizen deliberation, and public inquiries. The turn from government to more decentralized and networked governance can be seen as a kind of democratic pragmatism, though networks do not always enhance democracy. This problem solving must be a flexible process that involves many voices and cooperation across a plurality of perspectives. The degree of participation with which pragmatists are happy often corresponds to existing liberal democracies and enables congruence between the demands of rationality in social problem solving and democratic values, though efforts exist to deepen both the democratic and problem-solving capacity of participation.