In this seminar we presented emergent findings from the WISERD civil society project "civil participation in Wales, in place, and over time". The publication of Putnam’s Bowling Alone (1995) provoked an important debate as to whether participation levels in Western societies are in decline. While in the UK context the case for an overall decline in participation is somewhat mixed, there is strong evidence that civic and social participation has become increasingly stratified along lines of class and other axes of inequality. In particular studies suggest that formal participation is more than ever concentrated amongst middle class groups; whereas the social institutions underpinning working class forms of participation are in decline. Our own research tries to explore this in situ; using ethnographic and biographical interview methods to capture both continuity and change in participation within one de-industrialised locality in North East Wales. Our initial findings are consistent with some broader patterns of decline in traditional forms of participation based around religion and class. But we also identify how some of the established local spaces for participation are being challenged to re-present themselves as open and welcoming community spaces, and with varying degrees of success. We suggest that these findings raise some critical questions about the idea of the 'civic', and its meaning and relevance for understanding civil society within different types of places.
| 13:00 - 14:00
Room A101, Alun building, Bangor University, LL57 2GL, United Kingdom.