chapter  6
37 Pages

Political Participation

In this chapter, we look at the various ways in which individuals and groups participate in the processes of governance. We know from decades of research that there is a great deal of variation in the ways and degrees to which individuals participate in political processes. The chapter opens with a discussion of citizenship as a social role of sorts in a system of politics. We have found there are many acts associated with citizenship as well as acts associated with exclusion from rights, privileges, or expectations associated with citizenship. Many of these role behaviors have been organized into quite useful typologies of political participation. The chapter then looks at these types of political participation in detail, including current research. This is followed by a discussion of a contemporary debate around what some call the decline of civic engagement in the United States, and the role of what sociologists call “social capital” in this process. Finally, the chapter ends by looking at two recent studies that conclude political participation is changing as a result of broad social forces. This chapter prepares us to move into more detailed chapters that follow regarding voting and electoral processes, the extensive research on political and social movements, and terrorism as political violence.