This axis focuses on the acquisition of values, attitudes and behaviours that contribute to a vibrant democratic citizenry. Democracy rests fundamentally on the principle of political equality, but in practice, economic and social disadvantage translates into unequal access to political power and decision-making (Schlozman et al 2012). Inequality has profound implications for the inclusiveness, responsiveness and, ultimately, the very legitimacy of our democratic system. Growing inequality is chipping away at the foundations of democracy, leading to increased political polarization and disaffection with politics (Kwon 2015). Now more than ever, effective democracies require engaged, responsible, and knowledgeable citizens. Understanding the factors that impact the development of this type of active democratic citizenship is a key goal of axis 1.
THEME 1.1: Learning across the Life Cycle
What are the sources of an engaged and responsible citizenry and how do they vary across different phases in people’s lives? How can young people best acquire active citizenship norms and practices? Which life events are most influential in shaping people’s political outlooks and understanding of democratic practices? What obstacles impede the learning of active citizenship at different stages of the life cycle? We will bring new interdisciplinary perspectives to bear on these questions, combining insights from work on political socialization with approaches drawn from education, biology, medicine, psychology, and gerontology.
THEME 1.2: Challenges for Learning Citizenship
Social inequalities have profound consequences for political participation and representation (Gilens 2005, Bartels 2008, Schlozman, et al. 2012, Soss and Jabocs 2009). If we want to diminish political inequality, understanding how to mobilize underrepresented groups is key. Our research on this theme will not just contribute new theoretical insights on why political inequality is so persistent, but will also show how these inequalities rooted in socio-economic status, gender, ethnic origin, disability and health can be overcome.
THEME 1.3: Adaptation and Integration of New Citizens
Immigrants face enormous challenges in adapting to an unfamiliar environment. The increasingly diverse origins of new citizens, as well as the structure of their social networks, have important consequences for the ways in which they practice democratic citizenship. Not only do they come from countries with different political cultures and religions, but refugees in particular have often experienced political trauma and authoritarian rule. Yet we know remarkably little about the political adaptation of new citizens. How do newcomers learn the ropes of democratic citizenship?
THEME 1.4: Learning Social Solidarity
Whereas the previous theme focuses on new comers, this one turns the spotlight toward “host” citizens. Growing ethnic and religious diversity in many Western democracies has heightened racial tensions and reactionary populist tendencies (Putnam 2007; Koopmans &Schaefer 2016). Muslims have increasingly become the target of campaigns of fear and hatred as international and domestic terrorism shakes people’s sense of security (Huddy et al. 2002; Darren &Silver 2004; Helbling 2013). What shapes people’s views of their fellow citizens and the sorts of rights and responsibilities that membership within the polity entails? Our research will combine macro-, meso-, and micro-level analyses to examine this question.
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