Draft Literature Review: Conclusion

Sections: Introduction ->  What is Political Participation? -> The Causes of Political Participation ->  Inequality and Privilege -> Interim Observations ->  Privilege and Capital ->  Adapting Capital -> Reconciling Privilege and Political Participation ->  The Importance of Perception ->  Conclusion

 

This literature review began by identifying a major motivating conundrum for political behaviour research; why do people participate or not in political activity? Before addressing that conundrum it briefly presented a broad definition and a new typology of political participation, which is a semantic adaptation of the typology presented by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady. Their work was also presented as a convincing initial account of the processes that lead from background characteristics to political participation. Their explanation of the inequalities in that participation was argued to provide a link to the concept of privilege and the extensive literature relating to it.

In combination those literatures provided the causal approach adopted by the current research and suggested the possibility of accommodating the processes identified by Verba, Schlozman, and Brady within the concept of privilege. Nevertheless, they were also argued to lack a holistic theory of that concept and, as such, provide an incomplete account of its workings. Further, they were argued to overlook the internal perceptual processes that constitute a key factor linking privilege to political participation. It was thus specified that the aim of the subsequent sections was to present theory that can underpin a fuller understanding of those links and, in doing so, inform efforts to make democratic participation less unequal.

Moving on to the second half of the chapter, a holistic theory of privilege was provided by Pierre Bourdieu’s work on economic, social, and cultural capital. That work, and his in depth work on the nature of cultural capital and class competition, was taken to offer a convincing explanation of the workings of privilege. Key adaptations to Bourdieu’s work, rendering it relevant to the context of the contemporary United Kingdom, were identified with reference to the work of Tony Bennett and colleagues. Further, and in a more significant departure, it was argued that in focussing on political participation the current research should retain Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s approach to causality rather than Bourdieu’s. In that light the propositions of those two key texts were reconciled to provide an outline of the process that runs from background characteristics through privilege to political participation.

Moving beyond the structural focus on objective privilege, it was argued that there is a need to account for subjective privilege, which is based on perception of it. As such, having considered the uncertain causal implications of cognitive dissonance theory, it was argued that Daryl J. Bem’s self-perception theory is highly relevant. That theory suggests that individuals draw on the same external cues as those around them when perceiving their levels of privilege and political participation. The resultant perceptions have implications for subsequent behaviour. This is of particular importance because those perceptions, in part, stem from relevant group status. This suggested the relevance of social dominance theory, which posits a range of strategies that individuals can adopt to deal with low status. It also accommodates the observation that, despite those strategies, low status leads to worse outcomes for individuals and more so when it is perceived. Thus, it is considered likely that those who perceive their low status and the structural reasons for it will behave in particular ways. Indeed, they are likely to hold markedly different behavioural patterns than those who hold system justifying beliefs, which posit that inequality is not cause by structural factors.

In summary, this chapter has reconceptualised political participation, presented work on the mechanisms of privilege, reconciled it with work on the causal processes that lead to political participation, and introduced work on the perception of privilege. As such, it has laid the groundwork for hypotheses that link the independent variables of privilege and perception of it to the dependent variable of political participation. Those hypotheses will be developed in the next chapter, which will also present the mixed methods research design that is adopted by the current research.

Sections: Introduction ->  What is Political Participation? -> The Causes of Political Participation ->  Inequality and Privilege -> Interim Observations ->  Privilege and Capital ->  Adapting Capital -> Reconciling Privilege and Political Participation ->  The Importance of Perception ->  Conclusion

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