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Cover Comparative European Politics

4. Political Participation  

Patrick Bernhagen and Angelika Vetter

This chapter provides an overview of political participation, ranging from conventional forms such as voting at elections to less conventional forms such as attending a demonstration or boycotting a brand for political reasons. The authors look at how voter turnout and protest participation have developed in recent decades and review the main theoretical explanations for differences and trends in participation between social groups and across European democracies. The chapter also considers new opportunities for participation at the local level and asks whether these have the potential to ameliorate or exacerbate existing problems of unequal participation.


Cover Introduction to Politics

4. Democracy and Political Obligation  

Robert Garner

This chapter examines the claim that democracy is the ideal form of political obligation. It first traces the historical evolution of the term ‘democracy’ before discussing the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy, asking whether it is possible to reconcile elitism with democracy and whether participatory democracy is politically realistic. The chapter proceeds to explain why democracy is viewed as the major grounding for political obligation, with emphasis on the problem of majority rule and what to do with the minority consequences of majoritarianism. It documents the contemporary malaise experienced by democracy and seeks to explain its perceived weaknesses as a form of rule. Finally, the chapter describes the new directions that democratic theory has taken in recent years, focusing on four theories: associative democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, deliberative democracy, and ecological democracy.