Study title
Social integration and political participation
Ref study 6501
Study language German
Contributing institutions
  • Soziale Integration
  • Politische Partizipation
  • Politisches Verhalten
  • Soziale Partizipation
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
The aim of the project is to clarify the relationship between social and political forms of civic involvement. Participation in clubs, associations, self-help groups, citizens' initiatives and organisations of all kinds is understood as a mechanism of social integration that is linked to other integration bodies - the family, work, the neighbourhood and the circles of friends - in mutual dependence. Political participation is considered the centerpiece of democratic integration. Traditional forms of political integration are in crisis. Decreasing participation in elections and votes as well as organisational problems of parties and other conventional interest groups (especially trade unions) can be observed in various countries, including Switzerland. Systematic-empirical comparative studies have shown, however, that despite these erosion phenomena liberal democracy is not fundamentally threatened in its existence. Alternative forms of political and social integration have gained in importance in the political process. New types of organisations such as informal networks, self-help groups, citizens' initiatives and unconventional forms of political participation have increased to such an extent that there is talk of a "participation boom" and a new "civil society solidarity". These two opposing trends, and in particular the uncertainty as to how they are to be interpreted, have led to a variety of social science debates: Communitarianism, for example, sees the family, the neighbourhood and non-governmental organizations as antipodes to the self-destructive forces released by liberalism and individualized claim thinking.
With the radical changes in Eastern and Central Europe, the concept of civic society has once again gained in importance. This provides for a strong network of intermediary organisations, which mediates between the macro-level of the state and the economic structures and the micro-level of the individual, as a necessity for the establishment and consolidation of democratic systems. A third debate concerns the concept of social capital. This raises the question to what extent social trust and the ability and willingness to work in voluntary organisations determine the efficiency and effectiveness of democracies and economic growth. Despite the many debates, the connection between social and political forms of participation is still unclear: On the one hand, participation in the social sphere serves integration, the articulation and mediation of interests and is partly understood as a "school of democracy" - especially with regard to learning democratic decision-making on a small scale. On the other hand, social (or non-state) forms of organization can have anti-democratic effects - e.g. the "dark side" of social capital such as rigid social control, intolerance towards outsiders or corruption. Furthermore, social participation as an institutional reality can serve as a basis for recruiting and mobilising political participation, but it also takes up resources of time and energy, which can lead to the depoliticisation of committed individuals. Political commitment therefore also competes with other leisure activities - especially with regard to "voluntary" activities; politics as such loses relative importance for the individual engaged in the social sphere. With the help of a general population survey and an in-depth organisational study at local level, the political function of social participation is to be examined. This project forms the Swiss part of an international comparative study of the ESF network "Citizenship, Involvement, Democracy".
Methods (description)
Allgemeine Bevölkerungsumfrage
Grundgesamtheit: Wohnbevölkerung der Schweiz ab 18 Jahren Random-random Stichprobe (2000 Interviews)
Befragungsart: Telefonische Interviews mit schriftlicher Nachbefragung
Lokale Organisationsstudie:
1. Auswahl von je drei bis vier verschieden grossen Gemeinden in der Deutschschweiz und der Westschweiz
2. geschichtete Stichprobe von lokalen Organisationen
3. Befragung von je zehn aktiven Mitgliedern der ausgewählten Organisationen
Erhebungsverfahren: Standardisierte Befragung telefonisch
Grundgesamtheit: Wohnbevölkerung der Schweiz ab 18 Jahren Random-random Stichprobe (Ziel: 2000 Interviews)
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
  • Baglioni, Simone. 2004. Société civile et capital social en Suisse: une enquête sur la participation et l'engagement associatif. Paris, L'Harmattan, 2004.
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 27.04.2018
Date modified 27.04.2018
Start - End date 01.08.1999 - 28.02.2004