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David Marsh

This article focuses on four areas in which there have been putative changes in democratic practices and processes over the last two decades: decline in, or changing forms of, political participation; the growing power of the corporate sector; the decline in state capacity and, relatedly, the problems of producing what is considered by some to be successful policy; and the growth of depoliticization and anti-politics. The article argues that while not all has changed, these are important, and worrying, developments. Subsequently, the article briefly examines possible ways in which we might re-engage citizens and recouple the government and citizens. Given space-limitations, this piece is best viewed as an informed argument.

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What is “Political” Participation

Beyond Explicit Motivations and Oppositional Actions

Sadiya Akram and David Marsh

Wood and Flinders re-center political participation on the idea of “nexus politics.” The effort is laudable because it contributes to other ongoing efforts at broadening our understanding of the nature of ‘political’ participation. Unfortunately, in our view, the authors misspecify new forms of political participation that have emerged by: (1) failing to take Henrik Bang’s work seriously; (2) focusing exclusively on motivation/intention, so that an action is “political,” only if the person acting sees it as “political”; (3) seeing all political participation as necessarily oppositional.

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Between the Social and the Political

The Role of the Proto-Political Sphere in Political Participation

Pia Rowe and David Marsh

While Wood and Flinders’ work to broaden the scope of what counts as “politics” in political science is a needed adjustment to conventional theory, it skirts an important relationship between society, the protopolitical sphere, and arena politics. We contend, in particular, that the language of everyday people articulates tensions in society, that such tensions are particularly observable online, and that this language can constitute the beginning of political action. Language can be protopolitical and should, therefore, be included in the authors’ revised theory of what counts as political participation.