Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government

Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government

Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government

Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government

Synopsis

Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government analyses a series of interrelated questions. The first two are diagnostic: how far are there legitimate grounds for concern about public support for democracy world-wide? Are trends towards growing cynicism evident in the United States evident in many established and newer democracies? The second concern is analytical: what are the main political, economic, and cultural factors driving the dynamics of support for democratic government? The final questions are prescriptive: what are the consequences of this analysis and what are the implications for strengthening democratic governance? This book has brought together a distinguished group of international scholars who develop a global analysis of these issues that looks at trends in establishes and newer democracies as we approach the end of the twentieth century. It also presents the first results of the 1995-7 World Values Study as well as drawing on an extensive range of comparative empirical evidence. Challenging the conventional wisdom, this original and stimulating book concludes that accounts of a democratic `crisis'' are greatly exaggerated. By the mid-1990s most citizens world-wide shared widespread aspirations to the ideals and principles of democratic government. At the same time there remains a marked gap between evaluations of the ideal and the practice of democracy. The public in many newer democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and in Latin America proved deeply critical of the performance of their governing regimes. And in many established democracies the 1980s saw a decline in public confidence in the core institutions of representative democracy including parliaments, the legal system, and political parties. The book considers the causes and consequences of the development of critical citizens. It will prove invaluable for those interested in comparative politics, public opinion, and the dynamics of the democratization process. ADVANCE PRAISE `The great democratic paradox of the 1990s is that it has simultaneously been the decade of democratization and the decade of growing distrust of democratic institutions. This volume admirably dissects the complex and multi-dimensional background of these conflicting trends, and presents a judicious evaluation of the grounds of optimism and pessimism--in which, fortunately, the former prevails.'' AREND LIJPHART, University of California San Diego `Critical Citizens is the most comprehensive collection of comparative work on confidence in government and sources of public support for democracy. I strongly recommend it.'' SEYMOUR MARTIN LIPSET, George mason University `Pippa Norris and her colleagues examine claims and counter-claims about the erosion of public confidence in democracy, describe the depth and dynamics of trust in government, and lay out a broad and differentiated approach to the phenomenon. They sort out the rather high degree of support for democracy from widespread uneasiness with the workings of instituions and with the behaviour of politicians. Their book is must reading for survey researchers and comparative students of democracy alike.'' SIDNEY TARROW, Cornell University `This is the most impressive comparative study of how citizens in contemporay democracies relate to their governments. In an age of expanding democratic institutions around the globe, the authors of Critical Citizens capture the reader''s interest and provide a masterful update on one of the critical issues of our time.'' CHRISTOPHER J. ANDERSON, Binghamton University (SUNY) `It is the Civic Culture study 40 years later . . .Critical Citizens is a landmark comparative study of trends in attitudes toward nation, government regime, political institutions, and leaders, in some forty regionally well-distributed countries, bringing together the resaerch of a cross-national team of social scientists, led by Pippa Norris of the Harvard Kennedy School. It is full of theoretically interesti

Excerpt

The mission of the John F. Kennedy School of Government is to train people for public service and to conduct policy-relevant research that contributes to the solution of public problems. To carry out that mission, we needed a better understanding of how government and governance in democracies was changing. Soon after I arrived at the Kennedy School at the end of 1995, I asked an inter-disciplinary group of faculty to work with me on a multi-year project called ‘Visions of Governance for the Twenty-First Century’ Politicians were telling us that the era of big government was over, but they said little about what would take its place. We do know that markets and nonprofit organizations are filling functions once considered the province of government, and that there have been some trends towards devolution from federal to state governments in the United States. and as we enter the Information Age—sometimes referred to as the Third Industrial Revolution— we know that the first and second industrial revolutions at the turn of the last two centuries had profound centralizing effects on government. What we do not know is whether the twenty-first century will produce equally enduring decentralizing effects, and what will be the implications for democratic governance. the Visions project is designed to explore such questions and suggest new directions for policy-makers.

We began by looking back at what has happened to views of government over the past thirty years. the results were set forth in Why People Don't Trust Government, published in 1997. in brief, we found that confidence in us government has sharply declined. in 1964, three-quarters of Americans said that they trusted the federal government to do the right thing most of the time. Today only a quarter do so. the numbers are only slightly better—about 35 per cent—for state and local government. Some polls show even lower levels.

Government is not alone. Over the past three decades, in America, public confidence had dropped by half or more for many major institutions: from 61 to 30 per cent for universities; 55 to 21 per cent for major companies; from 73 to 29 per cent for medicine; and from 29 to 14 per cent for journalism. in 1996, 30 per cent of the public said they had hardly any confidence in the leaders of the press—about the same as Congress. Our first book focused on the United States, with only passing glances at what appeared to be similar experiences in other developed countries. Now, in the second volume of the project, Pippa Norris and her colleagues have helped to fill that gap. the chapters that follow show that the United States is not alone.

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