Political Participation

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Political Participation

The term political participation refers to different mechanisms of public to express opinions or to influence political decisions. Typically, political participation is often defined in terms of instrumental acts, such as voting in national elections. Thus, political activities beyond voting are regarded as unconventional. Indeed, through voting, the members of the modern society are able to express their opinion about public policies. However, the democratic process involves various other forms of political participation that are closely related with the development of representative democracy. One example of a non-institutionalized political action is political discussion with family, friends, or colleagues.

Political scientists continue to debate whether political discussion should be regarded as a discrete form of political participation. John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher and political theorist, saw the liberty of political discussion as an indicator of the absence of totalitarian restraints. He indicated that the skills needed to engage in such discussions are valuable elements of democratic citizenship. Almond and Verba comply with Mill, asserting that political discussion should be grouped with other non-institutionalized activities, such reading the political news, working in communities to solve local problems, and party activities apart from voting.

Other political theorists, such as Verba, Nie, and Kim argue that political discussion and interest in politics in general, are forms of political involvement, which differs from political participation, or the direct influence on public politics. Thus, discussing politics with family, friends, or colleagues constitutes a non-instrumental, expressive action.

Yet, political discussion may be either expressive or instrumental. If the aim is just to inform others about one’s position, than the discussion may be regarded as expressive. However, the...
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