According to the mainstream literature on political participation, declining rates of voting and party and interest group membership reflect a crisis of democracy in Western democracies. In this article, we challenge this view by highlighting the rise of alternative forms of political participation that operate outside formal arenas. We suggest that the mainstream approach ignores such forms of political participation for two reasons: First, it operates with a narrow arena definition of politics; second, it is based on the assumption that non-participation in arena politics results from political apathy. We suggest that there is not a crisis of political participation, but there is a growing crisis in engagement resulting from an uncoupling between citizens and the state. Halting this form of democratic decline through a recoupling process will require changes on the part of governments and citizens.
Recognizing the Democratic Potential of Alternative Forms of Political Participation
Brendan McCaffrie and Sadiya Akram
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.