chapter  3
20 Pages

The Shifting Frontiers of Old Democracies: The Retreat of Political Participation in the West

WithRobert Pinkney

This chapter examines arguments about the importance or otherwise of participation to the democratic process. Democratic participation in Britain was in a sorry state in the early post-war years, according to the Whitley Bay Guardian. Any democrat returning to the Western democracies after 50 years on the proverbial desert island might look at the formal political processes and conclude that all was well. The growth of social inequality in most Western countries is hardly in dispute. Members of the incremental school are often politically agnostic, but have a tendency to see liberal democracy as self-regenerating, as different forms of participation ebb and flow in response to social and economic change. In terms of citizenship, there had been the hope that tribal voting out of class loyalty, and deference to social superiors, would be replaced by a more prosperous, better-educated citizenry, able to make rational choices in both the polling booth and the market place.