Political Participation as an Engine of Social Solidarity: A Sceptical View



Political theorists sometimes advocate the intensification of citizens’ participation in politics, on the grounds that this serves as an engine for the cultivation of social solidarity and civic virtue. I argue against such an initiative and set out the case for a more nuanced examination of the effect of particular modes of political participation on social solidarity, in light of recent empirical literature. Against the assertions of the theorists in question, the research reveals that political participation per se does not cultivate the said virtues, whereas entrusting citizens with deliberating and deciding specific policy issues (specifically in the form of citizens’ juries or CJs) does. Finally, it is argued that there is a rather limited scope to the implementation of deliberative bodies of the kind that cultivates solidarity. Consequently, intensifying political participation is not a reliable means through which social solidarity can be cultivated.