The resource model of political participation 2.0 : Protesting in semi-authoritarian regimes – A privilege of the privileged

Abstract: Transitioning to and sustaining democracy cannot be possible without active citizens joining protests, distributing political information, or representing fellow citizens in legislative institutions. Due to this, political-science research for several decades has tried to investigate why some citizens are involved in political decision-making while others prefer to refrain from it.Many scholars have suggested that citizens’ political participation is, at large, explained by their interest in politics and political knowledge. However, in the time of shifting towards the digital era, social media has substantially increased the speed and scope of information sharing and overall political knowledge. Additionally, attention seekers populating social networking sites promote mindfulness, consciousness, pro-activeness, and altruism, popularising online activism, boycotting, buycotting, and protesting. Yet, the scale of protest participation in semi-authoritarian regimes, which have a high potential to democratise, remains limited. If political interest or knowledge cannot really explain why this is the case, what can?In this dissertation, I tested hypotheses grounded in political-participation, social-capital, political-mobilisation, and rational-choice research traditions, as well as new hypotheses generated by studying the patterns in original data. In this fashion, I sought to find the underlying factors behind limited protest participation in semi-authoritarian regimes. By studying what is traditionally referred to as unconventional participation (e.g., online activism, petition-signing, and protesting) in democratic and semi-authoritarian regimes and participation in the Russian Federation as a representative case, I have developed an explanatory model of contemporary political participation. In the Russian context, the model proved to be 96% accurate at predicting protest participation.Based on the results of this study and those reported by other scholars, I concluded that socioeconomic status (SES) is at the root of inequalities in political participation. While high-SES individuals acquire advantageous social networks that give them access to political information, low-SES individuals are often excluded from political processes altogether. This dissertation demonstrated that individual social networks—and not time, money, or civic skills—are the most critical resource for contemporary participation.

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