Citizens and the State

Citizens and the State

Citizens and the State

Citizens and the State

Synopsis

It is generally believed that the relationship between citizens and the state in Western European democracies has undergone a fundamental change in the last decades. Many observers regard this change as a challenge to representative democracy. This book addresses the problem form the citizen's perspectiv. Singling out the ten fundamental components of the view that representative democracy is under threat, the book goes on to test them empirically by drawing on the extraordinary data set supplied by the Beliefs in Government research project.

Excerpt

It is generally believed that the relationship between citizens and the state in West European democracies has undergone a fundamental change in the last decades. Many observers regard this change as a challenge to representative democracy. This book addresses the problem from the citizen's perspective. The theoretical validity of the arguments supporting the challenge perspective is examined in the introductory chapter. Ten hypotheses are singled out from the literature. They relate to citizens as participants in the political process; to the intermediary collective actors such as political parties, interested organizations, and social movements; and to generalized attitudes towards politicians, institutions, and the democratic political system as a whole. These hypotheses are tested empirically by a wide variety of data across time and countries in the subsequent chapters.

The evidence is presented in three parts. Part I deals with political involvement, Part II discusses political linkage, while Part III is concerned with the political system. Our results speak against the challenge hypothesis. Citizens of West European societies have not withdrawn support from their democracies. However, rejecting the challenge hypothesis does not mean that there has been no change in the relationship between citizens and the state. The broadening of the action repertory, the increase in political participation, and the decline of party attachment are major characteristics of this change which could be observed in virtually all West European countries. These processes have changed the nature of the interaction between the actors of the polity and the public. Citizens have become more critical towards politicians and political parties, and they are more capable and willing to use non-institutionalized forms of political action to pursue their goals and interests. Thus, parties, interested organizations, and other major political actors have to take this into account, and must constantly and systematically consider voter preferences and opinions. These changes in the nature of the interaction between the citizens and the actors of the polity indicate a process which we call democratic transformation. Our arguments are laid out in detail in the concluding chapter.

This book is one of a series based on the work of the Beliefs in . . .

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