Trends in Political Action: The Developmental Trend and the Post-Honeymoon Decline

Inglehart, R. & Catterberg, G.
More than two decades ago, the authors of Political Action (Barnes et al., 1979) predicted that what was then called "unconventional political participation" would become more widespread throughout advanced industrial societies, because it was part of a deep-rooted intergenerational change. Time series data from the 1974 Political Action survey, together with data from four waves of the World Values Surveys demonstrates that this change has indeed taken place - to such an extent that petitions, boycotts and other forms of direct action are no longer unconventional but have become more or less normal actions for a large part of the citizenry of post-industrial societies. This type of elite-challenging actions also played an important part in the Third Wave of democratization - but after the transition to democracy, most of the new democracies subsequently experienced a post-honeymoon phase of disillusionment with democracy, in which direct political action declined. This paper analyzes data from more than 70 countries containing more than 80 percent of the world's population, interpreting the long-term dynamics of elite-challenging political participation in both established democracies and new democracies. Our interpretation implies that the current decline in direct political action in the new democracies is a "post-honeymoon" period effect; in the long run, we expect that elite-challenging activity will move on an upward trajectory in most of the new democracies, as has been the case in virtually all established democracies.

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