Draft Literature Review: Interim Observations

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

 

Taken together the preceding three sections illustrate the extent of the literature that relates to political participation and the inequalities in such activity that stem from background characteristics. That literature has provided numerous categorisations of political participation which have been amalgamated to create the typology adopted in the current research. That typology draws on the work of Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, who are also identified as having provided a convincing account of the causal process that translates background characteristics into unequal political participation. That account has been supplemented by the wide-ranging literature on the impact of privilege, which has been introduced as the broad concept that can accommodate the observations outlined in Voice and Equality.

Extensive though the outlined literature is, there remain crucial gaps that the subsequent sections of this literature review aim to address. First, the preceding sections have outlined a host of texts that have observed the connections between background characteristics and unequal outcomes but no holistic theory of privilege that can elucidate all of the processes of interest. There has been an extensive focus on economic inequality and on the direct effects of key social cleavages but no overarching account of those processes. Even Verba, Schlozman, and Brady’s impressive work adopts an incomplete approach to the workings or privilege, presenting only some of the mechanisms by which background characteristics are translated into advantage or disadvantage. As will be shown below, it is quite easy to accommodate those mechanisms within a broader, and richer, theory of privilege. This will also provide the basis to address the fact that, despite providing a convincing account of the processes that lead to political participation, their models leave considerable room for improvement in predicting that behaviour.[1]

Further, all of the above observations relate to the impact of structural forces on individual behaviour, failing to account for the of internal affective and cognitive processes that have important implications for behaviour. Thus, the current research aims to go one step further than just adopting a more holistic account of the structural workings of privilege by also considering the role of perception of privilege. In doing so it will address the paucity of research considering the importance of subjective privilege and its interactions with its objective counterpart. In addressing that paucity it will be advancing a more meaningful understanding of the causal processes that lead to political participation. Indeed, the lack of previous consideration of subjective privilege should be considered an oversight; how can the mechanisms that translate privilege into political participation be understood if individuals’ internal processes are not considered? Thus, subjective privilege represents a key link in the causal chain that must be considered alongside its objective counterpart. Providing this more complete account may also help to explain the different trends in implicit and explicit political participation noted previously. That is to say that it may prove to be the case that the importance of privilege is perceived to be different in relation to explicit rather than implicit political participation, acting as a barrier in relation to the former but not the latter.

Finally, in providing a fuller account of the workings of both subjective and objective privilege it is the aim of the current research to provide a better understanding of why some people do not participate in politics. As noted at the outset it is commonly recognised that democracy, however envisaged, cannot function without public involvement. If that involvement is disproportionately undertaken by certain groups then it is important to understand why. Indeed, the approach to addressing participatory inequality should be quite different if perception of privilege is found to have an important effect than if structural factors alone affect such participation. Thus, the subsequent sections of this literature review will provide a holistic account of the workings of privilege and perception of privilege, laying the groundwork for empirical research that will offer a more complete account of the processes that lead to political participation.

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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[1] Verba, Schlozman, and Brady, Voice and Equality, pp. 334-368.

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