Activism and political participation: roles, relationships and dependencies
AuthorsClark, Wayne Louis
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AbstractThe past decade has seen an upsurge ofacademic and popular interest in the political activity undertaken by citizens. This thesis presents a predominantly qualitative analysis ofthe nature of voluntary political participation, and subsequently addresses a number of key concerns about the current state of democracy in Britain. It is argued that existing analysis of political participation tends to focus on quantitative questions such as the levels and socio-demographic composition of political activity, with little attention being given to the experiences of those citizens who engage with political organisations. The analysis utilises the theoretical work of JUrgen Habermas in order to consider the potential role of both state mechanisms of participation and structures of civil society within the development of rational and deliberative democracy. The primary research draws upon sixty interviews conducted within the British Labour Party, the British section of Amnesty International, two Tenants' Associations, one Residents' Association and an alternative lifestyle collective known as Exodus. Three main themes are addressed in the form of a comparative study. Firstly, the thesis considers the nature of the various organisations and their membership policies. Secondly, a typology ofpolitical participation and activism is presented. Finally, analysis is provided of the experiences ofthe respondents of the actual process ofparticipation. Addressing these themes enables the thesis to explore the nature of the discourse that occurs within spheres ofvoluntary political participation, and to provide some insight into the dialectical relationship that exists between structures of participation and the activity that develops within such contexts. It is concluded that a range of conflicting tensions currently inform voluntary political participation. These factors raise a number of serious questions about the role of civil society within processes of democratisation.
CitationClark, W.L. (1998) 'Activism and political participation: roles, relationships and dependencies'. PhD thesis. University of Luton.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Humanities, University of Luton
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