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Doing democracy differently: How can participatory democracy take hold in deprived areas?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Oct 2019

King's Authors


The existing literature suggests that people living in areas exhibiting high levels of deprivation approach democracy in a distinctive way. Participation in electoral politics in these areas is likely to be low, and formal avenues for citizen participation unpopular. At the same time, trust and confidence in the institutions of democracy is significantly lower amongst the poorest social groups, and people living in deprived areas are more likely to feel disconnected from the processes of government. This presents a distinct problem to researchers and policy-makers interested in participatory democratic innovations; the very citizens whose participation would most enrich the democratic process are those most resistant to reform.

The paper addresses this issue by presenting data from a detailed case study in one neighbourhood in England, drawing on archival data, interviews and testimony collected over more than two years in the field. The paper generalises from the empirical findings to make broader theoretical points over the most appropriate strategies for democratic reform. The results suggest that well-established norms of participation remain important in determining both the level and form of democratic engagement, and that innovations which do not take this into account struggle to take hold.

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