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  • Peer Scheepers · Tom van der Meer · Manfred te Grotenhuis · Karl-Siegbert Rehberg
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    ABSTRACT: "In recent years politicians and social scientists have become ever more concerned with citizens' participation in informal networks ('social participation'). From both fields, the state has theoretically been proposed as an important determinant of social participation. Differing state institutions would explain the large country level differences in the average level of social participation. This article studies the impact of a range of state institutions on participation in broad, informal networks. The editors distinguish two aspects of social participation: the quantity (the number of social meetings) and the quality (the character of the informal relationships in the form of help provision). Taking up a new institutionalist approach, they test three explanations that have been raised theoretically but have not - or not sufficiently - been tested empirically before. The crowding out thesis claims that a large welfare state undermines the role of informal networks as an economic safety net, and therefore has a detrimental effect on social participation. According to the economic safety thesis a large welfare state and economic prosperity at the national level will offer citizens the resources and financial security to look for self actualization through social participation. Finally, the safe refuge thesis claims that people who life in a hostile socio-political environment that gives them little civic autonomy in the public sphere will opt for participation outside of the public sphere - that is around secure ties in informal networks. They test these lines of reasoning in a multilevel research design on data of the European Social Survey 2002. They simultaneously test the impact of the social security, economic development, democracy, civil rights and state corruption on social participation. The crowding out thesis is refuted by the data: social security expenditure has no impact on social participation. Economic prosperity, on the other hand, stimulates social participation, which is in line with the economic safety thesis. The most important determinant of social participation, however, is the level of corruption in a society. In corrupt societies people have less social meetings and provide less help to others than in incorrupt societies." (author's abstract)
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