Participation bid will not reduce apathy

June 1, 2001

Academics identify key issues in the upcoming general election

Citizen participation is seen increasingly as the remedy for our political, social and economic ills. The Citizenship Order in education promotes citizen participation "to diminish exclusion from schools, cynicism, welfare-dependency, apathy, petty criminality and vandalism, and a kind of could-not-care-lessitude towards voting and public issues". Local government reforms mandate authorities to encourage and institutionalise new forms of citizen participation.

The attempt to encourage us to participate, as individuals or through community groups and "the third sector", seeks to make government relevant through responding to the alleged demand. However, the focus on participation avoids institutional responsibility for involving and inspiring people. The government might do better if it could develop some convincing policies that generated public support.

David Chandler, research fellow, Policy Research Institute, Leeds Metropolitan University.

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