Conventional wisdom suggests that citizens in many countries have become disengaged from the traditional channels of political participation. Commentators highlight warning signs including sagging electoral turnout, rising anti-party sentiment, and the decay of civic organizations. But are these concerns justified? This book, first published in 2002, compares systematic evidence for electoral turnout, party membership, and civic activism in countries around the world and suggests good reasons to question assumptions of decline. Not only is the obituary for older forms of political activism premature, but new forms of civic engagement may have emerged in modern societies to supplement traditional modes. The process of societal modernization and rising levels of human capital are primarily responsible, although participation is also explained by the structure of the state, the role of agencies, and social inequalities.
• Offers a systematic comparative study of political activism in 193 nations around the world • The book aims to provide a clear account of trends in political activism and cross-national differences based on primary evidence • Gives insights into problems of political activism that are of widespread concern to policymakers, scholars and commentators
List of tables; List of figures; Preface; Introduction: 1. The decline and fall of political activism?; 2. Theories of political activism; Part I. The Puzzle of Electoral Turnout: 3. Mapping turnout; 4. Do institutions matter?; 5. Who votes?; Part II. Political Parties: 6. Mapping party activism; 7. Who joins?; Part III. Social Capital and Civic Society: 8. Social capital and civic society; 9. Traditional mobilising agencies: unions and churches; 10. New social movements, protest politics and the internet; 11. Conclusions: the reinvention of political activism?; Appendix: comparative framework; Notes; Select bibliography; Index.
'… impressive in its interrogation of evidence comparing systematic data for electoral turnout, party membership and civic activism in countries around the word … a well-argued thesis that questions the popular decline of political activism … well executed, fascinating and extremely readable … it is delivered eloquently and engagingly … this is a brave, admirable and absorbing book that should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in political activism and citizen participation.' European Journal of Communication