This research explores the relevance of a cultural explanation for the well-established pattern that less educated citizens participate less in citizens’ initiatives. Prevailing theories explain this pattern by focussing on a lack of time, money, cognitive sophistication and social capital. However, Bourdieu’s seminal work suggests that the cultural dimensions of feelings of entitlement and a ‘taste for politics’ may also be relevant. Based on 13 in-depth interviews with less educated citizens living in Rotterdam, I scrutinize the two dimensions. The results show that people feel less entitled to participate when they experience stigma and perceive that they lack mastery of the culturally legitimate knowledge and language. A ‘taste for politics’ has three subdimensions: a disdain or dislike of red tape, a disdain or lack of affinity with government officials because they are perceived to come from a different milieu and a disapproval of politics as power play. These aspects can restrain but also – against expectations – induce participation. The (sub)dimensions occur in different combinations, forming four ideal types of (non-)participation among less educated citizens. From the construction of these ideal types important theoretical implications follow. First, they demonstrate that a cultural explanation is relevant in explaining (non-)participation in citizens’ initiatives. Moreover, they indicate that feelings of entitlement and a ‘taste for politics’ are not only analytically distinct, but also empirically different. My research must therefore be seen as a call to disentangle the two mechanisms. I conclude my paper with recommendations for policy.

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J. van der Waal, W. de Koster
Sociology of Culture, Media and the Arts
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

V. Visser. (2018, June 18). Towards a cultural explanation of political non-participation in citizens’ initiatives: Feelings of entitlement and a ‘taste for politics’. Sociology of Culture, Media and the Arts. Retrieved from