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Participatory initiatives and political representation: the case of local councillors in Sweden
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5485-8577
2012 (English)In: Local Government Studies, ISSN 0300-3930, E-ISSN 1743-9388, Vol. 38, no 6, p. 795-815Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The health of political parties and the institutions of representative democracy have been extensively questioned during the last decade due to evidence of a widespread decline in voting turnout, political trust, and party membership as well as identification. An often-proposed, but also often-questioned, strategy to strengthen representative democracy is for political institutions to offer alternative forms of political participation through so-called participatory initiatives. The literature suggests that participatory initiatives will have little impact on representative democracy if no adaptation among political representatives is apparent. This paper explores the consistency between participatory initiatives in Swedish municipalities and the attitudes, practices and role-taking of local councillors, comparing pioneer municipalities where extensive numbers of participatory initatives have been executed vis-à-vis hesitator municipalities where few initiatives have been implemented. The study indicates that local participatory initiatives may stimulate political representation by creating new channels for citizen input and communication between citizens and representatives that are supported by local councillors in the pioneer municipalities. However, the core roles of parties and councillors in representative democracy appear not to be challenged by these initiatives, being similar in both groups of municipalities. The article is concluded by a discussion of the implications of these results for the function of participatory initiatives in local democracy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2012. Vol. 38, no 6, p. 795-815
Keywords [en]
Participatory initiatives, political representation, political communication, local councillors, local democracy
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-23476DOI: 10.1080/03003930.2012.688036ISI: 000314914900007Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84874298943OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-23476DiVA, id: diva2:533494
Available from: 2012-06-13 Created: 2012-06-13 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Covering distance: essays on representation and political communication
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Covering distance: essays on representation and political communication
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Political representatives’ democratic legitimacy rests on their ability to cover the distance between themselves and citizens. Representatives must avoid being perceived as distant and aloof from the needs and wishes of those they represent. The aim of this thesis is to increase the understanding of how new forms of communication with citizens, through participatory initiatives as well as political blogging, are used by politicians in their roles as representatives. Underlying this aim is the question of whether new forms of communication can contribute to reducing the distance between representatives and citizens. The central argument of this thesis is that such types of communication aid representative democracy only to the extent that they offer representatives efficient channels for performing functions related to political representation.

This study presents a theoretical framework that identifies potential functions of communication between representatives and citizens for political representation. Its empirical analyses, presented in five articles, find that representatives widely communicate with citizens through participatory initiatives and political blogging to aid their roles as political representatives. Furthermore, results show that representatives’ communication is significantly determined by strategic, practical, and normative factors. The representatives are found to act strategically as communication practices are adapted to accommodate their particular situations, needs and normative orientations. Keywords:

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitet, 2013. p. 112
Series
Örebro Studies in Political Science, ISSN 1650-1632 ; 33
Keywords
political representation, political communication, participatory initiatives, political blogging
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-32019 (URN)978-91-7668-983-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-12-20, Hörsal F, Forumhuset, Örebro universitet, Fakultetsgatan 1, 701 82 Örebro, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-10-15 Created: 2013-10-15 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved

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Karlsson, Martin

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Citation style
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Output format
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