English title: Alienation and the Normative Value of Voting: Explaining Turnout Decline in Five Advanced Industrial Countries

Author(s): Stephen Goodrich -

Language: English

Type: Thesis / dissertation

Year: 2009


Whilst declining turnout has been the hallmark of Western political participation over the past four decades, there has been little work that examines this trend in relation to the normative value of the vote. This seems bizarre as, for all the literature produced on turnout and electoral participation, there has been very little work explicitly stating why voting is important. This negation intuitively leads one to believe that electoral studies are therefore an irrelevance. To rectify this negation this study seeks not only to establish the potential cause of declining participation, but to do so in relation to the normative value of the vote. To begin with, by challenging the value of voting, it can be claimed that electoral participation is at best undesirable and at worst inhibiting for citizens. It alienates them not only from the decision-making process but from themselves as self-determining individuals. From this normative foundation it can then be claimed that declining turnout is primarily caused by alienation from the system of representative government. Although there are problems proving this theory emphatically there is sufficient evidence that political alienation, as a concept, does help explain both abstention and declining turnout. As a consequence of these two assertions a number of potential research areas open up. These include examining the consequences of turnout decline, establishing whether its revival is normatively desirable and constructing democratic alternatives to the undesirable status quo. It is hoped that by combining this normative element to existing questions on participation democratic and electoral studies can progress the stagnating debate surrounding democracy.


Awarding institution: The University of Manchester

Number of pages: 0

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