Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics

By Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
Elections: Who Votes and Who Doesn't?

PARTICIPATION by the members of an organization or the citizens of a society in political affairs is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for rank-and-file influence on organizational or government policy. On the one hand, members may show a low level of political participation in an organization or society, but still affect policy by their ability to withdraw or contribute election support to one or another of the different bureaucracies competing for power. On the other hand, a membership or citizenry may regularly attend meetings, belong in large numbers to various political organizations, and even have a high rate of voting turnout, and yet have little or no influence on policy.

The latter is the situation in totalitarian states and in some one- party trade-unions. The totalitarian leader wants his followers to attend meetings, read political literature, listen to broadcasts, and engage in other similar activities, since these are means of reaching them with his point of view and indoctrinating them. If the members or citizens are not "politically" active, they are removed from the influence of the controlling power. Some totalitarian states have undertaken large-scale literacy drives with the explicit purpose of increasing the probability that the citizenry will absorb the prescribed ideology. Similarly some trade-unions, especially those under Communist control, have made strenuous efforts -- including compulsory attendance at meetings -- to increase participa

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