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Understanding political disenchantment in contemporary democracies Gerry Stoker, Canberra and

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding political disenchantment in contemporary democracies Gerry Stoker, Canberra and"— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding political disenchantment in contemporary democracies Gerry Stoker, Canberra and

2 What I am not arguing  That citizens were ever enchanted with politics  That there is imminent crisis in politics  That anti-politics is conceptually unambiguous 2

3 What I am arguing  Decline and change are observable  Differences between countries but widespread  Differences over time  Differences between social groups  Complexity in and of explanation  Research beginning to offer new insights 3

4 Anti-Politics: What is it?  AMONG CITIZENS: Negativity towards politics rather than democracy  Attitudes?  Individual Behaviours?  Collective Actions?  Trajectories of change measured these factors FROM ABOVE: let’s exploit it; lets remove issues from politics FROM BELOW: : passive and active forms Source: Vittorio Mete,

5 Five types of “decline” trajectory  Flatliners: Italy, Greece  Modest decliners: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany  Slow burning and deep decliners: UK, US  Abrupt decliners: Spain, Portugal, Japan, Iceland  Blessed decliners: Australia, Canada  NB Other countries, other trajectories. In each case of course the story is complicated 5

6 Three broad types of explanation  Inputs have changed  Processes have changed  Outputs have changed 6

7 INPUT: SOCIAL CHANGE  1/1 Input/ social capital  Decline in social capital ( and more broadly the quality of civil society) means loss of capacity to engage in associational activity and impacts on anti-politics as citizens support and independent dynamic to engage is weakened  1/2 Input/ decline of collectivism  Decline in collective institutions from trade unions, through churches and large firms reflects an individualisation of life ( more consumer focus and less citizenship focus). Expressed also through expectations gap  1/3 Input / inequality  Increased inequality given impact of economic globalization has created a more fragmented citizenry and led to the intensified exclusion of some from the political process 7

8 INPUT: ATTITUDINAL CHANGE  2/1 Input / Less deferential more critical citizens  As citizens have become more educated and information more freely available they have become more critical and challenging to all types of authority, including political figures  2/2 Input / More issue oriented, more on-line and less partisan  Citizens are less committed to one partisan perspective or party and more issue-driven and fragmented in their interests and more on-line therefore less loyal and more selective in their political engagement  2/3 Input / Impact of neo-liberalism and depoliticization  The dominance of neo-liberal ideology has weakened citizens’ sense of what government can do and what action in the public realm can address, thereby limiting engagement with politics and processes of depoliticization have removed a swathe of decisions from public input 8

9 THROUGHPUT  3/1 Throughput / political elites out of touch and managerial  Political leaders are drawn from an increasingly small pool, often lack a broader life experience. The declining social base of political elites in turn rests on the weak and declining membership and active capacity of political parties. Politics offered more managerial and less value driven  3/2 Throughput : media culture and spin response  The emergence of intense 24 hour media coverage of politics, and the parallel developments in social media has developed a sense that politics is obsessively short-term, focused on spin and presentation and lacks the substance to demand engaged public attention  3/3 Throughput: dominance of lobby politics and special interests  Politics is dominated by special interests and the lobbying of those seeking favours from government rather than any concern for the public interest. The nature of campaign and lobby finance, party funding and networks of influence and ties confirm that politics does its business with the few rather than for the many 9

10 OUTPUT  4/1 Output: Opaqueness of Governing System  The complexity of modern governance arrangements caused by the impact globalisation and other factors means that the system lacks a basic accountability or legitimacy, turning many away from politics  4/2 Output : Failure to tackle big or long-term issues  Politics cannot grapple with the big issues such as climate change or economic renewal; nor can it because of democratic myopia driven by electoral and other popular pressures deal with long-term issues such as care for the elderly  4/3 Output : economic austerity  Politicians and politics have presided over economic failings and loss of living standards and potentially worse still connived with bankers and others in making ordinary people pay for the problems caused 10

11 Comparison of Trajectories: UK and Sweden UK  Not 1/1- but all other input factors  All throughput factors strong concerns  Concern about all three output factors Sweden  Not 1/1, 1/3, 2/3 yes to other input changes  Throughput factors weak concerns  Some concern over 4/1 but not so much other factors 11

12 There is something about politics  Trust and politics: a complex relationship  Civic culture: subject, parochial and active?  The nature of citizenship 12

13 Depth to issues of what troubles people about politics  Project 1: Anti-Politics: Characterising and Accounting for Political Disaffection ( with Colin Hay and Ruth Fox, Hansard Society)  Project 2: Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, ( with Will Jennings, Nick Clarke and Jonathan Moss) 13

14 Project 1  Based on focus groups/ new survey work  KEY LESSONS:  Fast and slow thinking: how citizens think/talk about politics  The contingency of political attitudes  Folk theories, the media and anti-politics: towards a theory of how citizens think about politics  Reform preferences on the surface not too radical  14

15 Project 2: Mass Observation History  Mass Observation – Est – : mass observers – : panellists (day surveys, directive responses, diaries) – 1970: est. of Mass Observation Archive – 1981-present: Mass Observation Project  Eight relevant directives: – Pre-1960s: Feb/Mar 1945, May/Jun 1945, Nov 1945, Jul 1950, Nov 1950 – Post-1960s: Aut/Win 1996 combined with Spr 1997, Spr 2010, Spr 2014 – Responses per directive: – Panel not formally representative but: it is more representative than is often assumed; we can sample within it; this is not essential 15

16 Already clear from historical qualitative analysis  British citizens sceptical to some degree  Embedded “put upon”, “us and them culture part of context  Benefit of the doubt/mustn’t grumble/ useless idiots 16

17 History of anti-politics: survey work  tracking longitudinal trends in public attitudes towards politics with quantitative data limited by historical repertoires of question wordings (and contemporary concerns).  Developing and trialling new questions  Example of a creative solution: replication of Gallup question first asked in 1944 (and in 1972).  “Do you think that British politicians are out merely for themselves, for their party, or to do their best for their country?” 17

18 Evidence of decline/change Source: YouGov, 2,103 GB Adults, Fieldwork: 20th - 21st October

19 Anti-politics: Having political impact now  Conservative voters are more positive: 34% think politicians out for themselves, 21% that they are out to do what is best for their country.  UKIP voters are most negative: 74% think that politicians are out for themselves, just 3% to do what is best for their country.  Modelling drivers of UKIP voting intentions shows negativity towards politics matches impact of demographics 19

20 What can change ?  Input factors can be seen as an opportunity as well as a threat …that is they could be (are being) exploited to change politics  Various institutional reforms could make a difference to throughput concerns and address some output issues  Parties and Political Class need to recognise the scale of change required 20

21 Devolving power: part of the answer  We have no national parties in Britain  Social and economic issues are dramatically different in different locations  Democratic innovation is more feasible and flexible at the local level  Real power, open engagement: still need to move beyond faux localism 21

22 Conclusions  Single club “solutions” unlikely to work  Politics may well be changing as much as declining  A party that finds a way could lead the way  The “Conversation” about change needs to develop, be open, evidenced-based, reflective and not dominated by established political actors  Universities could and should play a greater role 22


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