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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  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? 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  Blessed decliners: Australia, Canada  NB Other countries, other trajectories. In each case of course the story is complicated…let’s explore some narratives of decline 5

6 Italy: flatliner  Bad now and bad then  Partisan breakdown and populism  Non-government?  Regional differences more pronounced?  Firsts in decline : Media magnate, non- elected, comedian.... 6

7 Sweden: modest decliner  Modest loss of trust and large decline in reach of party machine  Increased numbers of "critical" citizens  online/offline divide more prominent  Compromise more difficult and populist challenge ( immigration issue)  Significant experiments in democracy taking place 7

8 Spain: abrupt decliner  Politics and parties central to transition from dictatorship  Multiple examples of corruption recently revealed  Economic reversal had a big impact  Organized political response still observable but it’s a mess 8

9 USA : slow and deep decliner  long decline from heydays of 1950s  Perfect storm....in recent years economic decline, partisan bickering and irresponsible deadlock  Leads the way in the marketization of politics  Race and changing demography  Shocks jocks and the politics of negativity 9

10 Australia: blessed decliner  Lucky country : Donald Home ( success despite incompetent elites )  But negative aura around politics  Negative campaigning: migrants, environment  Negative about leaders and parties ; tall poppy phenomenon  Role for bizarre independents and mavericks 10

11 Three broad types of explanation  Inputs have changed  Processes have changed  Outputs have changed 11

12 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)  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 12

13 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 authority  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 13

14 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 14

15 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 15

16 UK case study using framework  Rule out: 1/1 social capital  Qualified impact of 4/3 economic decline  Leaves 10 in play  Factors with greater impact on some social groups : 1/2 ; 1/3; 2/1; 2/2  Time horizon: longer for input, output than throughput 16

17 From ESRC research  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) 17

18 Anti-Politics: Characterising and Accounting for Political Disaffection  Based on focus groups/survey work  KEY LESSONS:  Need to develop new survey questions  Fast and slow thinking: how citizens think/talk about politics  The contingency of political attitudes  Populism, the media and anti-politics  The public wants representative politics as it should be ( plus)  18

19 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?” 19

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

21 Anti-politics: Having political impact  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.  Implication: historical comparisons may also provide insights into current trends/patterns in popular attitudes towards politics. 21

22 Stage 2 – data collection from Mass Observation  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 22

23 What can change ( and how) ?  Input factors can be seen as an opportunity as well as a threat …that is they could be (are being) exploited to change politics  Devolving power surely part of the answer  Various institutional reforms could make a difference to throughput concerns and address some output issues  Parties, Parliament and Political Class need to recognise the scale of change required 23

24 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 and evidenced-based and not dominated by established political actors  Universities could and should play a greater role 24


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