midterm[1] - Question 1 Between the elections of 1896 and...

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Between the elections of 1896 and 1920, voter turnout fell from 79 to 49 percent (Piven and Cloward, 63). This decline in participation continues to be a defining characteristic of the American electorate. In contrast to other democratic western nations, Americans have consistently low rates of voter turnout; rates that have, for the most part, continued to decrease with each passing decade (Tugal, 02/05). However, it is not true that all American’s prefer nonparticipation. As sociologists Francis Piven and Richard Cloward point out, there are certain social cleavages that divide voters and nonvoters. In America political participation has decreased almost exclusively among the poor and racial minorities. Unlike some of the social scientists before them, Piven and Cloward do not accept the Social Psychological arguments presented to explain this group’s nonvoting. Instead, Piven and Cloward argue that the reason for nonparticipation is not found in the non-participants themselves, but rather the series of institutional changes that were intentionally crafted to demobilize the growing threat that the poor and racial minorities presented to capitalist interests (Tugal, 02/05). The period in American politics between 1828 and 1896 earned the moniker “The Golden Era” because of its unusually high rates of voter turnout, the highest in American history (Tugal, 01/29). It began with the extension of universal suffrage to all white males with the elimination of property requirements in 1828. But, the election of 1896 marked the end of this so-called golden era and ushered in a new standard of political participation. In order to understand Piven and Cloward’s assessment of why voting patterns shifted in the19th century, one must first understand the mechanisms of mobilization that dominated the golden era. Those mechanisms were tribalism and clientelism. Tribalism, Piven and Cloward explain, is a system of mobilization in which people organize themselves around certain ethno-cultural identities; including ethnic, religious, or geographical affiliations (Tugal, 02/05). Piven and Cloward explain that since there were no issues that cut across varying cultural perspectives, people 1 Question 1:
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tended to vote in accordance with very narrow interests. Piven and Cloward call the other mode of mobilization clientelism. This is a system of political patronage in which politicians deliberately service specific communities in an attempt to solicit votes (Piven and Cloward, 48). According to Piven and Cloward this pacifies the electorate.
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midterm[1] - Question 1 Between the elections of 1896 and...

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