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Bringing Citizens Back In

Citizenship
Comparative Politics
Democracy
Quinton Mayne
Harvard University
Brigitte Geißel
Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Quinton Mayne
Harvard University
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Abstract

Democratic innovations are currently in vogue. More and more citizens as well as politicians and political scientists are pinning their hopes on participatory procedures as a way to improve the quality of democracy. At the same time scholars have become increasingly interested in improving the conceptualization and measurement of quality of democracy. Yet, surprisingly these two strands of research are rarely connected. Although studies of democratic innovations often seek to investigate the effects, both positive and negative, of participatory procedures on democratic quality, they seldom refer to quality-of-democracy indices. At the same time quality-of-democracy research shows little interest in studies of democratic innovations. In our paper we focus on a set of indicators of quality of democracy that, though regarded as crucial by students of democratic innovations, is almost entirely missing from quality-of-democracy-measurements—namely, citizens’ democratic commitments and capacities. Based on abundant theoretical and empirical findings we argue that democratic quality is a function of the interaction of the socio-political conditions that allow for democratic rule, citizens’ capacity to take advantage of these conditions, and their commitment to use them for democratic ends. In making the case for this argument, we emphasize the analytic importance of anchoring any evaluation of democratic quality in a broader theoretical discussion of democratic models. We show how doing so is a necessary step in ensuring that a realistic and holistic set of mutually compatible empirical indicators is selected in future to measure democratic quality.