Levels of Political Participation and their Corresponding Activities


Levels of Political Participation and their Corresponding Activities

Apart from the forms which focus on the interpretation of attitudes as participating in politics, political participation can also occur at various levels. Getting involved in political participation entails costs in time, energy and resources, yet individuals and groups differ in the amount of resources that they are able or willing to devote to political participation.

Thus, while most people engage in one kind of political participation or another, not all persons are able to participate in politics to the same degree. In other words, participation of some people can be more holistic than others. These levels of participation shall be discussed in this post.

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Table of Content 

At the end of this post you should be able to:

(a) Understand that political participation occurs at different levels

(b) Identify the different level of political participation

 In his 1965 book titled Political Participation, Lester Malbraith, categorized political participation at the spectator-level, the transitional level and the gladiatorial level. This unit shall use this categorization in anti-climax, and will also attempt certain activities that are corresponding to them.

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The Different Level of Political Participation

1. Gladiatorial political participation

2. Transitorial Political Participation

3. Spectatorial Political Participation


1. Gladiatorial political participation

This is the highest level of political participation a man can attain in a society. People who participate at this level engage in activities such as presenting themselves as candidates for political offices, or holding the offices at particular times, getting financial grants from political parties for the purpose of elections, and politicking through caucus formations, faction formation or kitchen cabinet. Political participation at this level takes so much time and resources that those engaged in them hardly do other things aside politics. So, if you look around you today, those people like your country’s president, governors, senators, presidential and gubernatorial aspirants as well as other very active political figures even at the local government levels, can be considered participants of politics at gladiatorial level. They can also be called members of the political class, and they constitute about 5 percent of the population of any political community.

2. Transitorial Political Participation

Transitorial political participation is next in hierarchy to the gladiatorial. Participants at this level often engage in activities that mostly facilitate ground for gladiatorial participants most likely with the hope of getting political appointment after their candidates are successful.

People who participate at transitorial level are often very charismatic as much as gladiatorial participants, but due to lack of other political logistics such as money, zoning, godfathers’ preferences (where they play active roles in politics), and such people may choose to work behind the scene. Major activities at the level of transitorial participation are meeting organization and attendance, communication, advocacy and campaigns, liaising with incumbent power, as well as making of monetary donations to candidates at the gladiatorial level.

3. Spectatorial Political Participation

Spectatorial political participation includes but is not limited to voting, attending campaign rallies, displaying party symbols and influencing friends and family to vote in certain direction. These are activities that every citizen is expected to engage in as civil responsibility, aside from those having some things at stake. This kind of participation is quite common amongst people. It is relatively less expensive in terms of time and resources, so, it a majoritarian kind of political participation.


Conclusion on   Levels of Political Participation and their Corresponding Activities

Our conclusion is that political participation is a diverse and complex process which embraces a wide range of activities. Lester Malbraith classified these activities into spectatorial, transitional and gladiatorial, each one unique to the population and class that are likely to engage in it. Specifically, majority of people participate at the spectatorial level because it is cheaper and less time demanding, then it flows up like that.

Participation in politics comes at different levels. There are the spectatorial, transitorial and gladiatorial levels of political participation in every society, and each of the levels comes with its cost and capabilities.

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