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Novel forms of Political Participation: Questioning the Centrality of Politics?

Open Panel

Abstract

Marilena Simiti Department of European and International Studies University of Piraeus (Greece) e-mail: fiona1@otenet.gr Section Title: The Civic Culture Revisited: Challenges, changes and innovations in studies of participation and trust (Section ID: 45) Panel: The Emergence of new types of political participation and its consequences Novel forms of Political Participation: Questioning the Centrality of Politics? There is a growing literature on democratic political participation in advanced democracies. Empirical studies verify that citizens (especially the younger generation) feel increasingly disillusioned and disaffected from the formal institutions of representative democracy. This has generated a debate about the gradual erosion of social trust in western democracies. However, there have been empirical studies, which show that the lack of “systemic trust” is not necessarily connected to decreased political participation. On the contrary, the lack of “systemic trust” is positively connected to the rise of alternative forms of political participation (e.g. political consumerism, cyberactivism). According to an optimistic interpretation of current changes, the rise of novel/alternative forms of political participation represents a shift in the dominant model of the ‘citizen’. In the new model citizens have greater autonomy, since they can choose the subject, the timing and the form of their political participation. However, these changes have also a negative dimension, which is often neglected. Many individuals chose these novel forms of political participation, because these adjust better to the main priorities of their everyday life (e.g. professional, social, and personal). This becomes further accentuated by the fact that many alternative forms of political participation can easily become individualized (according to the biographical needs of each individual), since they do not any more require the physical presence or coordination of the individuals. Thus, current changes in political participation may also signify the gradual erosion of politics as the central terrain of a citizen’s life. Instead of accepting a priori that all novel forms of political participation are a manifestation of high interest in politics, greater research should be done in investigating and specifying the forms that strengthen politics and contribute to political equality.