Social science and participation
Social science and participation

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Social science and participation

Why people get involved

Take another look at the list from Activity 2.

Written a letter of complaint about public services in your area
Helped to run a club
Volunteered to help people in need
Joined in a campaign to improve your local area
Attended a public meeting
Signed an online petition
Joined a book club
Played sport in a team
Voted in an election
Attended a religious service
Signed up to a social media platform, such as Twitter or Facebook
Joined a trade union
Taken part in a protest or a march
Voted in a reality television show
Stood for election to a political body, a civic organisation, or a club
Served on a committee of an organisation locally or at work

Some of the activities seem more ‘instrumental’ than others. People engage in them in order to express their opinions and in the hope of influencing other people by doing so. Writing a letter, voting, attending a public meeting or going on a protest march might all fall into this category: forms of participation in which people seek to express their ‘voice’.

Activity 3 Having a voice

Timing: Allow 5 minutes for this activity

From the list above, identify the activities that you think have expressing one’s opinion or voice (expressive participation) as a primary purpose.

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Here are the activities that we thought counted as examples of participating as a means of expressing one’s opinion or voice.

  • Writing a letter of complaint about public services in your area
  • Joining in a campaign to improve your local area
  • Attending a public meeting
  • Signing an online petition
  • Voting in an election
  • Joining a trade union
  • Taking part in a protest or a march
  • Standing for election to a political body, a civic organisation, or a club

You might not have chosen the same activities as us, but that’s okay. People do not engage in these activities only to express their voice; they might go on a march, join a union or become a member of an organisation for other reasons too – to make friends, show solidarity or maintain relationships. But the important thing to bear in mind throughout this course is the idea that ‘having a voice’ is an important part of ‘being able to influence the circumstances of one’s own life’ (Ruth Levitas’s definition of political participation in the film ‘Social science, poverty and participation’).


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