For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Does workplace experience enhance political participation? A critical test of a venerable hypothesis"

by Adman, Per (2008)


Several schools of thought claim that citizens can develop their democratic skills at the workplace. Here I focus on the hypothesis put forward by Carole Pateman and by Sidney Verba and colleagues that state that by practicing civic skills and democratic decision-making at the workplace, citizens become more active in politics. I test the hypothesis with a nationally representative panel survey of the Swedish population. My findings contradict previous empirical research as no impact on political participation was discovered. I argue that the effects may have been overestimated in prior studies because the tests were based on cross-sectional data: insufficient care was taken with a number of significant methodological problems. The study points to the importance of using panel models when investigating the causes of political participation.

Key Passage

When it comes to civic skills, voluntary associations are not the only means to increase political participation. Verba et al. (1995) claim that civic skills can also be developed at the workplace. In the 1970s, several participatory democrats such as Carole Pateman even pointed to democratic workplaces as the starting point for a more participatory political democracy at large. Both of these approaches have been supported empirically. However, I argue that appropriate data have been lacking in previous research, and when I use more adequate data no support is found. (p.116)


Pateman, Feminism, Participation, Democracy, Political Theory


Democracy and Work

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