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Social science and participation
Social science and participation

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Evaluating participation

Defining participation as including consumption activities, ‘neighbouring’ and measures of more formal participation means that the Understanding Society research is able to capture relationships between participation (in the broad sense used by Levitas) and levels of material deprivation and poverty (of the sort that Gordon touches on). Since both material and social consumption require financial resources, there is likely to be a difference in the levels of overall participation depending on how much income people have available. However, ‘neighbouring’ does not necessarily vary quite so predictably according to measures of socio-economic advantage.

Activity 1 Evaluating types of participation

Timing: Allow 5 minutes for this activity

Take a look at the examples of participation listed below. Think about which of these six examples are most important in shaping the overall level or quality of someone’s participation in society. Use the text box to rank each of the examples from 1 to 6, with '1' being the most important in shaping the overall level or quality of someone’s participation in society.

  • a.Having access to material resources to buy goods and services
  • b.Being able to afford occasional treats for yourself and your family and friends
  • c.Living in a clean and healthy environment
  • d.Being involved in local community groups
  • e.Trusting government organisations
  • f.Taking part in politics, e.g. voting in elections
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There is no correct answer to this question.

Nevertheless, you might want to think about why you have ranked some activities as more important than others. Is it because you are more involved in some of these activities than others, or you would like to be?

Asking people what they think is important in defining participation in society has been a key aspect of social science research. So your opinion on these matters is exactly the sort of thing that social scientists are interested in finding out about. In fact, social scientists often expect people to have strongly held opinions on all sorts of matters. The fact that your opinion might differ from someone else’s reminds us that the issues social scientists expect us to have opinions on are inherently contested.

Social science might be seen as helping to enact social worlds by giving people the opportunity to express their opinions. More broadly, it makes differences of opinion on contested issues visible by encouraging the widespread expectation among people that they should have opinions on all sorts of matters and should have the opportunity to express them.