GOVERNANCE & PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Political participation is not a new issue in the social sciences, nor is it “policy innovation” in a strict sense. Politics and policies always had an impact of the quality of life of the citizens and those who felt disadvantaged did voice their protest. The traditional approach in the social sciences was the analysis of political conflicts. In response to the social and cultural conflicts in the 1960s conflict sociology became one of the dominant topics in the social sciences. Examples are traditional studies like the work of Hirschman and Gurr (Hirschman 1970; Gurr 1970). Policy analysts like Dahrendorf related these conflicts to the change of the social structure (Dahrendorf 1967). These analyses, however, did not look specifically at these conflicts as a form of political participation, and hence as a complement to the representative democracy. As some studies have shown people who protest have different intentions (Pohoryles and Eckstein 1988): A typology shows that most people see it this way. Hence, already in the 1970s social scientists have looked into pragmatic solutions to ensure political participation of the concerned citizens. However, many of these attempts did not look at the information issue: the mere contestation of citizens might lead to the hindrance of a specific project, but hardly ever to the implementation of an alternative solution. This is why already in 1970s social scientists looked at an improvement of the quality of citizens’ participation. A quite well-known approach is the approach of “Planungszellen” (Dienel 2009 with a historical review).
On the urban, regional, national and European levels citizens’ participation got since an ever increasing attention in public opinion and in the social sciences. With the development of modern ICTs online participation became more and more popular. New developments will increase public trust and overcome what is widely believed as „democracy deficit“.