The Political Engagement of Black and Minority Ethnic Groups: Does policy impede Civic Culture?

By Bethany Waterhouse Bradley and Phil Ramsey.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The 2010 Audit of Political Engagement (Hansard Society) found evidence of low levels of ‘political engagement’ amongst Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) participants compared to white respondents. This included categories such as ‘knowledge of politics’, ‘propensity to vote’, ‘discussing politics’, ‘presenting views to a local councillor or MP.’ We argue that this provides a substantial basis for contending that BMEs are politically disenfranchised and disconnected. This article sets the findings of the Audit into the theoretical context of Civic Culture and Social Capital, and outlines the potential problems with these theories with regard to BME Communities. It also seeks to show how UK policies have created an environment which is not conducive to the promotion of civic engagement for ethnic minorities in the UK. Inclusion through multiculturalism was once considered an inherent part of the policy culture in the UK, however recent policy has shown a shift in discourse away from these principles, replaced by social cohesion and integration. With more emphasis on language including ‘citizenship’ and ‘Britishness,’ multiculturalism and the onus on government to involve BMEs in society has given way to personal responsibility and active citizenship. This article seeks to explore the impact of this shift on an already low level of political engagement amongst the effected communities. It finishes by discussing the problems with UK policy which leads to the one of the poorest rates of political participation for migrants in Western Europe.

Keywords: Civic Culture, Political Engagement, Black Minority Ethnic Groups, Voluntary Sector, Social Capital, Social Policy

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 7, pp.183-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 706.409KB).

Bethany Waterhouse Bradley

PhD Researcher, Centre for Voluntary Action Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of Ulster, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Bethany Waterhouse-Bradley is a third year PhD researcher in Social Policy at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland. Her thesis examines the political opportunities and constraints involved in the process of consulting representative bodies in decision-making.

Phil Ramsey

PhD Researcher, School of Media Studies, University of Ulster, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

Phil Ramsey is PhD Researcher in the Centre for Media Research, within the School of Media, Film & Journalism, University of Ulster. His thesis examines the political communication policies of New Labour, and the impact they had upon the public sphere in the UK.

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