Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism

Democratic phoenix: reinventing political activism.
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Common approaches include regression analyses on a single act of political participation e. Gray and Caul voting or a series of acts that are either analyzed as separate dependent variables e. Gallego voting, political activism, protest and political consumerism , or accumulated into a participation index e.

Democratic Phoenix

Howard and Gilbert ; Verba et al. When utilized to estimate socio- economic bias, all of these techniques are similar in that they examine whether those with more social and economic resources will participate more on a linear continuum or series of continua , but cannot determine whether they participate differently with respect to combining different activities into distinct participatory repertoires. Therefore, while recent research suggests that people are in fact combining different participatory acts in distinct ways e. Empirical investigation of distinct profiles of participation may be based on either a deductive or inductive approach.

In a deductive approach, Barnes and Kaase defined a priori a typology of potential political action repertoires , pp. Although LCA has been widely used in criminology, psychology, and biomedicine, it is less familiar to sociologists and political scientists. However, LCA differs from factor analysis in that the latent variables are assumed to be categorical rather than continuous, and no a priori restrictions are imposed on the forms of the relations between the variables Hagenaars and Halman , p. This means, for example, that in principle the same level of an indicator e.

Latent classes are estimated probabilistically using a maximum likelihood estimation procedure. LCA assumes that the reason for associations between indicators is not that one indicator causes or is systematically related to another, but rather that they are all symptoms or manifestations of an unobservable latent variable. Additional noteworthy examples of LCA in political and social research have investigated party support and democracy Breen ; Treier and Jackman , the welfare state Edlund ; Edlund , social class Evans and Mills ; Evans and Mills ; Whelan and Maitre , tolerance and nonconformity McCutcheon , value priorities Moors and Vermunt , ascriptive justice Simmons , and cultural consumption Tampubolon ; Zavisca Findings 1.

We then proceed to compare these findings with model for the U. For the U. The percentages listed next to the name of each participation type in the legend show the estimated proportion of the population that belongs to each participation type, indicating that the inactive group is the largest, followed by the institutional, non- institutional, and then the active. This representation of the latent class analysis findings makes it possible to characterize the distinctive nature of each participation type.

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For the active type in green, activism holds across the board in that this type has or ties for the highest likelihood of participation on all indicators. Likewise the inactive type shown in red has or ties for the lowest likelihood of participating on all indicators, although it is noteworthy that this type is still contacting, petitioning, and voting at nontrivial levels. The institutional type in blue specializes in the classic activities of voting, contact and party work. While also displaying a relatively high level of petitioning, the institutional type is like the inactive in that it has very low probabilities on the remaining non-institutional indicators demonstrating and boycotting.

The non-institutional type in orange is close to a mirror image. It is characterized by a relatively high probability of engaging in demonstrating, boycotting and petitioning, a very low probability of party work and a significantly lower probability of voting than the active and institutional types.

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In sum, the participation types identified inductively by LCA for U. Before discussing our findings for the U. Given our delineation of the testable implications of the democratic phoenix hypothesis due to the rise of non-institutional participation, it would not be altogether surprising if the institutional and non-institutional specialists were not inductively identified in the s time period.

However, due to the rise of in non-institutional participation over time, the democratic phoenix hypothesis would lead us to expect not only a clear inductive identification of institutional and non-institutional specialists in the s, but also an increase in their size and distinctiveness in the U. Figure 4: Participation Type Distribution, U. However, the findings for Europe do give partial support to the testable implications we delineate regarding the democratic phoenix hypothesis in the transition from the s to the s Table 2.

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New social movements, protest politics and the internet Conclusions: the reinvention of political activism? Appendix: comparative. Paper for presentation at Panel Political Activism, Participation, and Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism New York.

As predicted, there is a marked increase in the proportion of the population that specializes in non-institutional participation, and a decrease in institutional specializers. Although the active-hybrids have not increased in size, the inactives have essentially remained stable, which in and of itself is a striking finding, given the concern for decreased citizen engagement in advanced democracies in recent years. Before concluding our comparison of participation patterns between U. In other words, are the four participation types which can be characterized as inactive, institutional specialists, non-institutional specialists, and active-hybrids within the context of each of three different models U.

In addition, the most crucial comparison given the dramatic changes in the U.

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To address this question, we compared logged conditional probabilities relative to the mean for each model in order to showcase the content of participation repertoires despite the fluctuation of participation means in different times and places. These comprehensive comparisons indicate a remarkable similarity in the content of participation repertoires across space and time 8.

Given our primary focus in this paper on understanding changes in the U. As noted, in the whole of the U.

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While the proportion of the population that is active and 7 A log scale is utilized in order to make ratios of less than 1 more visible; a base of 2 is utilized to avoid an unrealistic maximum y-value. This comparison shows that the repertoires of the active participators are virtually indistinguishable in these two time periods, which indicates a remarkable expansion of the proportion of the population in the s that engages in every available participatory opportunity.

At the same time, we see that the inactives of these two time periods are also remarkably similar, except for the two non-institutional indicators of boycott and demo, in which the s inactives are more likely to engage. As suggested by the democratic phoenix hypothesis, the findings do indicate that politically engaged citizens generally divide between three subgroups that have consistent characteristics as institutional specialists, non-institutional specialists, and hybrid activists.

Yet we have also documented a profound shift in participation in the U. This activist group is, however, considerably diminished in size compared to what would be obtained by combining the three engaged types in the s, and as a result the inactive majority is now even larger than it is and previously was in Europe.

Hence, in the current decade, the American electorate is polarized between an active minority and an inactive majority. From a comparative perspective, these trends embody both divergence and convergence between patterns of participation in the U. On the one hand, because of the polarization of participation types resulting from the disappearance of specialists, America no longer resembles Europe in being characterized by three distinctive types of citizen engagement.

Non-institutional activity in America has become part and parcel of the political repertoire of activists, rather than — as is now the case in Europe — the favored specialty of engaged citizens. However, if attention is focused on the three engaged types as a group, the U. Indeed, the U. What does this mean in terms of the democratic phoenix hypothesis?

In Europe, while there is no evidence of civic renewal per se, democratic phoenix hypothesis is partially supported in that the overall proportion of political engaged citizens has remained stable due to the reshuffling of the activities of the engaged, who are now dominated by non- institutional specialists, in place of the greater prevalence of institutional specialists in the s. In parallel, by the s the majority of Americans who would earlier have been involved in one form or another of engagement are now to be found in the vast inactive type.

Democratic Phoenix

While the inactive type in the s is somewhat more likely to engage in the non-institutional activities of demonstrating and boycotting compared to the s, it is stable over time in all other indicators. Hence, there is little reason to believe that the rise of non-institutional participation in the U. Building on these findings, we now proceed to enrich our new-found understanding of participatory repertoires by examining socioeconomic stratification of participation types. Socioeconomic Stratification of Participation Types In the research tradition most closely associated with works by Verba and his associates that were cited earlier, the focus is on the degree to which the socioeconomic status SES 9 A caveat must be entered here — namely that since Europe has been aggregated in the present analysis, we cannot foreclose the possibility that some countries have experienced this type of activation.

In Sweden, which we have looked at for a different study, a significant minority of inactives currently engage in non-institutional participation acts. Given our interest in comparing national and societal-level patterns of participation, we first investigate the stratification of participation from a different perspective. In order to identify class bias in political participation, we investigate the socioeconomic composition of the members of different participation types. We faced two methodological challenges in seeking to achieve this goal.

First, how to measure stratification in a fashion that is reasonably comparable across time and place; and second, how to present the findings in a parsimonious fashion. The first of these challenges was severe. Consumers of multi-country survey data rarely acknowledge just how incomparable their data are. Education, income and employment are not only subject to different measurement conventions in different contexts, but may also have fundamentally different meanings.

After considering the problems, we settled on a measurement approach that is simplistic but does not push the available data beyond reasonable limits. Using data based on national definitions of income and education either years, qualifications or both , we created country and year-specific tertiles of each of these components of SES. In the interests of parsimony, we present here only the overall results of our analysis, based on the index of dissimilarity Sakoda, This is one of a well-known measure of segregation, and is typically used to investigate segregation between dichotomous pairs — e.

They show, first, that while participation is stratified by both education and income, the effect is indeed stronger for the former than the latter. In the exceptional case, the U. Our latent class analysis findings indicate that in the s the U. The difference between the raw activity rates i. All three of the engaged types were far more common in the U. Yet even though a larger proportion of citizens were politically engaged in the U.

To illustrate this point, another way to parse the data underlying our calculations of the Index of Dissimilarity is to analyze how education or income tertiles are distributed in each participation type instead of, as in the Index of Dissimilarity, analyzing how participation types are distributed in each income or education tertile.


From this perspective, in the U. This is about 15 percentage points higher than in Europe, where the inactives were far more numerous and less homogenous in their class background. The distinctive feature of contemporary political participation in the U. The inactives have become both more numerous and more heterogeneous in America because many citizens who in the past would have been politically engaged no longer are. This generalization does not necessarily apply to specific individuals, of course, but rather to specific participation types. These are not necessarily the same.

Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism

For instance, even if all of the underprivileged were inactive, this would not necessarily imply that the inactive type was composed solely of underprivileged people. To summarize the findings to this point, we have shown that the democratic phoenix hypothesis is refuted in the U. Given these two sets of findings, we now hone in on the U.