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Democratic Resource or Democratic Threat?

Profiles of Critical and Uncritical Citizens in Comparative Perspective

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Why are some countries democratic and democratize continuously, while others stagnate? According to theories on political culture, citizens' attitudes are crucial elements. In this context the discussion on critical citizens is gaining prominence: Critical citizens are regarded as a threat to democratic stability or as promoter for democratic reforms. Based on the International Social Survey data (2004), I will contribute some empirical evidence to this controversy. In addition to the common equating of criticism with discontentment, I will also include the normative disposition of “critical” attentiveness. Bivariate and multivariate analyses show that contentment, praised in previous research, or discontentment, as suggested by recent studies, are not the decisive attitudes. It is the political attentiveness which promotes democracies.

Affiliations: 1: Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin, Germany;, Email:


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