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SPP 381

Author: Natalia Letki
Description: This paper examines determinants of political participation in the new democracies of East-Central Europe (ECE). Literature on social capital suggests that trust originating from membership in voluntary associations is crucial for citizens' participation in politics that, in turn, is decisive for the emergence and consolidation of democracy. At the same time, Communist experience is hypothesized to hamper the development of participatory political culture in the new ECE democracies. Using extensive indicators we analyze the impact of individual-level social capital and membership in the Communist party on several types of participatory activities. Through multi-level analysis we also test the influence of the process of democratization on levels of participation. Our findings suggest that exposure to the political processes is a vital determinant of respondents' political participation; thus participatory culture should be understood as a result rather than a cause of the democratic system. Participation in politics under the non-democratic, communist regime turns out to be very relevant for socializing citizens for participation in a democracy. Finally, social capital, conceptualized as the interaction between social trust and associational membership, is largely irrelevant for political engagement in East Central Europe.

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CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland