Welcome to our first virtual issue of 2021 and to a new year of reflecting on some of the latest thinking on the major policy questions of our time including the growing importance of digital democracy and on-line public service delivery, the decline of public trust in conventional politics, and the potential of citizen participation to reconnect electorates with political and policymaking processes.
Given that on-line working has become so pervasive and so important during the coronavirus pandemic, we start this virtual issue with a collection of papers that explores the role of digitalisation in promoting public participation and delivering public services. Read on as we journey from analyses of these innovative examples of digitalisation, stopping off at some familiar but important themes for regular readers of the journal including direct democracy, political leadership, and new insights into citizen participation. Continue reading Virtual issue on digitalisation, democracy and participation – free to access until 31 March 2021→
Political debates often become dominated by the same kind of people: pundits, lobbyists, politicians, and experts, who know how to grab people’s attention and articulate their viewpoints convincingly. These people persuade viewers and listeners, shape public opinion, and influence political decision-makers more than other people do. But debating skills are not necessarily matched by knowledge, nor by a concern about the interests and views of ordinary citizens. In that sense, it could be viewed as a democratic problem that the public conversation is usually shaped by the narrow perspectives of a privileged few.
Pau Alarcón, Carol Galais, Joan Font and Graham Smith
The economic crisis has led to challenges across a whole host of policy areas. But what has been its effect on citizen participation in political decision making?
When we think about the pros and cons of citizen involvement in political decision-making, questions arise about competence and motivation. On the one hand, there is the question of the competence of citizens in making well-considered decisions. On the other hand, will politicians implement or ignore citizens’ proposals?Continue reading When austerity knocks, what happens to public participation?→
Wahed Waheduzzaman, Sharif As-Saber and Mohotaj Binte Hamid
Countries around the world have been facing numerous challenges in promoting citizen participation in the governance process. Among them, elite capture is considered to be a significant stumbling block that undermines this process. ‘Elite capture’ is where elites in a society exercise disproportionate and unacceptable levels of influence over collective functions and manipulate decision making processes to secure undue benefits for themselves (see Wong, 2012).
Whatever your view on public participation, our new virtual collection brings you our most recent research on the topic from a range of different perspectives, all of which aim to enhance our understanding of its importance. Opening the collection is one of our most innovative articles that seeks to address the gap between evidence and policy on how population health outcomes are determined by health discourses. To explore understandings of the cause of ill health in two deindustrialised areas of Scotland, interviews with participants produced vivid articulations of the links between politics, policies, deindustrialisation, damage to community fabric and impacts on health, hence the title: Working-class discourses of politics, policy and health: ‘I don’t smoke; I don’t drink. The only thing wrong with me is my health’.
by Tessa Coombes, PhD Researcher at Bristol University
For the final plenary session of the conference Prof. Andrew Gamble, from Cambridge University, took us back to the issue of democracy and its ability to survive and even thrive. We were reminded that for the first time in the modern state system authoritarian regimes are in retreat and representative democracy, in some form or other, is on the rise.
Representative liberal democracies have been described as the least admirable form of governance not least because of their inability to take difficult decisions and their short term thinking. Despite this, in the 20th century, representative democracy came to be seen as an ideal state. But it now seems we are in a time of transition, where there is a real disengagement and disillusionment with mainstream politics, where the choice is narrowing and where people are indifferent to their right to vote. This crisis of representative politics reflects a crisis of trust in our politics and politicians. Once more, despite this process, representative democracy Continue reading Can democracy survive?→
Existing research suggests that administrative traditions reflect state-society relations, democratic style and level of centralisation. Four key traditions are reflected within the countries studied, which include the:
Napoleonic tradition – characterised by a strong centralised state and antagonism between the state and society (e.g. France)
organicist tradition – characterised by a federated state and co-operative state–society relations (e.g. Germany)
Anglo-Saxon tradition – characterised by a mixed form of state and pluralist state–society relations (e.g. the UK) and,
Scandinavian tradition, which combines the organicist and Anglo-Saxon traditions (e.g. Norway).
In addition, we thought it was important to consider developments in public sector management and reform in different countries and the potential for EU influence in developing citizen participation.