Monday, 16 April 2012

Sacred Action: what mainstream politics can learn from religious groups about political engagement

The College of Sociology’s Editor, Timothy Stacey, was recently invited to the PIDOP International Conference on Civic and Political Engagement. PIDOP is a large-scale, three-year project measuring the factors contributing to and restricting civic and political engagement in Europe. The project fails to mention religion as either a contributing or restricting factor. Timothy Stacey explained the importance of religion as a contributing factor. Below is the abstract with a few accompanying slides:

The last fifteen years has not been a great time for liberal democracy. Despite the mitigated realignment of politics around the centre-left we have simultaneously seen amongst the most disadvantaged a radical disengagement with mainstream politics.

The loss of meaning on the part of mainstream politics, and the consequent disconnect with real people as they live their lives has been relatively unexplored by academics, although it has been widely observed by think-tanks, politicians and journalists[1]. It is clear from an historical look at voter turnout records and party membership records.

But the answer from mainstream parties too quickly becomes to seek new and more efficient ways to engage people with the same politics.[2] Increasingly it borrows from the market techniques for doing this. There is a failure to see anything inherent to the system that undermines engagement.

On the other hand religious groups have never stopped in their sole purpose of making meaning happen for people as they live their lives. This paper explores religious groups in the hope of finding pathways to a new politics. It explores how religious groups engage their core membership, the extent to which that membership is politically engaged, and which political bodies have best engaged religious groups until now.


Tim Stacey

[1] For think-tanks see Jenny Bristow 2001; Tom Bentley 2005. For politicians see Douglas Carswell 2005; Hazel Blears 2008. For journalists see especially the website of the London paper The Guardian:
[2] See especially Phillip Gould’s The Unfinished Revolution (1999) in which focus groups are shown to align policy towards the opinion of the most influential voters; Mark Penn’s Microtrends (2008) which details the move of politics away from mass organizing towards collective goods and towards polling undecided voters in swing states; and Douglas Carswell’s Direct Democracy (2005), which looks to bring referenda to local matters. 

No comments:

Post a Comment