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Political Research Exchange

The Dilemma of Political Sophistication and Political Equality

Workshop Number
Workshop Director
Martin Elff
University of Essex

If democratic government is “Government for the people, by the people, through the people” then the prospects for its full realization seem bleak: One of the most thoroughly and repeatedly documented fact about mass publics in existing democracies is that of a widespread ignorance about political matters, of a wide gulf in sophistication between the governing and the governed, and high variance among the governed. Since political sophistication and efficacy is strongly correlated with education and social status, especially citizens with lower status are disadvantaged in terms of political sophistication and efficacy, to the consequence that their voices are less heard by government. Consequently, government policy may become skewed in favour of the better-off. This raises several questions, such as whether genuine political equality is possible at all, how the political disadvantage of citizens from lower strata can be ameliorated, and whether changes in the media system have made it easier or more difficult to come to limitations of political sophistication. Such questions cannot safely ignored, if political science is expected to matter for the effectiveness of democracy. The workshop therefore aims to create the opportunity for a dialogue between all sub-fields of political science, a dialogue that includes normative political theory, comparative politics, political psychology and political sociology. is open to all scholars with an interest in the question of political sophistication and political equality from any theoretical, empirical and practical point of view.

Paper List

Title Details
A Vicious or Virtuous Circle? Aligning Ontology and Methodology in the Study of Participatory Inequality View Paper Details
Beyond Discretionary Political Equality. Democracy and Social Justice View Paper Details
Definitions of democracy: knowledge, sophistication and trust in democratic institutions View Paper Details
Direct democracy on the subnational level: Can the popular initiative bring the people back in? View Paper Details
Does More Knowledge Lead Citizens to Discover their True Political Preferences? View Paper Details
Education and participatory inequalities in real existing democracies View Paper Details
How Inequality Affects Political Engagement View Paper Details
How political efficacy relates to political equality View Paper Details
Institutional participation: a vehicle or an obstacle for political equality? View Paper Details
Liberal Justice, Cultural Capital, and Social Status View Paper Details
Political alienation and social risk View Paper Details
Political Capital, Social Capital and Democratic Performance View Paper Details
Political Equality in the Light of Residential Segregation. A Study of Neighbourhood Effects on Political Participation in a Swedish City. View Paper Details
Political Equality of voting correctly View Paper Details
Political Inequality and Non-Autonomous Voting View Paper Details
Political Knowledge and the New Media View Paper Details
Provoking Art and Protesting Publics: Art debates that challenge our conceptions of political understanding View Paper Details
Social Interactions and social contexts: A new vision of democratic space and political sophistication through individual networks. View Paper Details
The Dilemma of Political Sophistication and Political Equality: Institutional Reforms for Participatory Governance View Paper Details
The impact of knowledge and sophistication on ethical reasoning about politics View Paper Details
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