Panel Abstract

Traditional and Digital Forms of Political Capital: A New Theory and its Application in Asia

Comparative political science has tried to find the reasons and causes for specific forms of political behaviour of citizens at the micro-level of democratic systems since several decades. The core research question was, if there is a ‘homo politicus’, who is a democratic citizen and has a variety of resources, which enable him-her to act politically in a reflected and meaningful way. The main theoretical task was to explain political behaviour in the conventional form of voting or participating in electoral campaigns or in the unconventional forms of protest politics and its origins. Some theories put such a causal emphasis on human capital (education and skills), on political knowledge or political interest, on political networks of friends and peer groups or on active integration in political organisations in form of membership.

These theoretical concepts have been valuable in the past to describe, explain and sometimes predict political behaviour in a partial way but only to a certain extent and not in the form of a comprehensive and encompassing theory. Political Theory and Comparative Politics was hopeful during the last 20 years that the theory of social capital might represent such a wide-ranging and inclusive theory of political behaviour, thus explaining political behaviour of democratic citizens as well as general support for democracy at different levels of specificity, but this expectation was not fulfilled.

Comparative political science is hence still looking for a comprehensive new theory of a ‘homo politicus’ or ‘active citizen’, who is interested in politics, is discussing politics with family and friends, has a wide and deep knowledge of politics (Morrell 2003) through extensive usage of printed and electronic media information on politics, is thus involved in politics, is integrated in politics at the meso-level as a member of a political party, of a political interest group or of a new social movement or a social-political network in the Gutenberg galaxy or on the world-wide web (Richey 2008).

The proposed paper is intending to fill that theoretical gap and is presenting a new theory of ‘Political Capital’, which could constitute a conceptual innovation in the study of political behaviour of citizens in Asia.

The concept of ‘Personal Political Involvement’ (Aarts & Semetko 2003) at the micro-level of societies is integrating the concepts of ‘political knowledge’ (Albright 2009; Andersen & Tilly & Heath 2005), ‘political interest’ (Denny & Doyle 2008), ‘salience of politics’ and ‘political discussions’ (Conover & Searing & Crewe 2002).

The proposed new theory of ‘Political Capital’ will be tested in the proposed paper in a cross-national perspective in order to assess political capital in 10 countries in Asia.

The data-base of the proposed paper is including the following 10 countries in Asia (in alphabetical order). Bangladesh, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Mainland China PRC, South Korea, Taiwan ROC, and Thailand.

The data-base for those 10 countries in Asia is the new 7th wave of the World Values Survey. The fieldwork in those 10 countries was accomplished between 2017 and 2019 with 18 046 personal face-to-face interviews. The sample size in those 10 countries was between 1 200 and 3 200 respondents.

The paper will develop the new theory of political capital and its core conceptual components, such as ‘political knowledge’ (Prior & Lupia 2008), ‘political interest’ (Sturgis & Smith 2010), ‘salience of politics’, ‘political discussions’, ‘political involvement’, ‘political integration in parties’, ‘political integration in political NGO’s’ and ‘political integration in New Social Movements’ (Mutz 2002; Whiteley 2011).

The paper will also analyse the social structure of political capital. The research question here is the age structure of political capital, the educational stratification of political capital and the impact of social class on political capital.

One important element of the proposed paper is the also the analysis of new and digital forms of political capital, which can be observed in those 10 countries in addition to traditional forms of political capital.