How do post-communist citizens engage in the new democracies of Eastern Europe after decades of repressive control exerted by the communist regimes? Are people’s involvement in post-communist politics influenced by generic socioeconomic and attitudinal traits, or is it primarily driven by selective mobilization opportunities provided by social networks and organizations? This book presents a broad framework for conceptualizing and measuring citizen participation and applies it to Romania as a typical post-communist democracy illustrating the low rates of political activism in the region. Separate chapters examine post-communist citizens’ participation in elections, attempts to influence authorities beyond voting, cognitive engagement in politics, and direct involvement in local decision-making. Using large-N statistical analyses, the author argues that individuals’ socioeconomic and attitudinal characteristics have relatively weak influences on citizen participation in the post-communist context. Instead, various organizations and social networks act as politically recruiting and mobilizing agents, driving citizen participation into political actions that can challenge or strengthen democracy. In the absence of a well-developed participatory political culture that would enable citizens to act autonomously in the political sphere, the persistence of post-communist democracies largely depends on the goals and methods pursued by these mobilizing agents.
Marius I. Tătar is lecturer in Politics at the University of Oradea and research associate at the Research Center for Political Action (CRAPUL), University of Lausanne
Chapter 1: Theories of Democracy and Political Participation
Chapter 2: Contextualizing Political Participation in Romania after 1989. The Illusions and Disappointments of the Post-Communist Transition
Chapter 3: The Dynamics of Electoral Participation and Types of Voters
Chapter 4: Participation as Attempts to Influence Public Authorities
Chapter 5: Cognitive Political Engagement: Information, Discussion, and Knowledge on Politics
Chapter 6: Participation in Local Decision Making
Chapter 7: Searching for “Another Democracy”? Changing Patterns of Political Participation during the Economic Crisis
This is an insightful analysis of participation trends in Romania. The author marshals a large amount of empirical evidence and offers thought-provoking interpretation.