Unemployment leads to political passiveness. Voting participation declines, as does taking part in demonstrations and petitions. Being unemployed also makes people less likely to contact politicians and other representatives of social institutions about social issues; people’s belief in their ability to influence policy suffers. Unemployment especially affects groups that are less active politically, such as immigrants and people with low educational attainment. With the loss of employment the voice of these less frequent participants is heard less and less in the public debate. The result is thus a challenge to democracy in Sweden and a sign that there is a deficit in political equality. The interests of the unemployed risk being ignored when political decisions are made.

The dissertation is the first report ever on the impact of unemployment on Swedish democracy. The material consists of nearly 1500 randomly selected inhabitants of Sweden. The results contradict what has been reported in previous research, primarily from the US, which has not shown any negative impact on political activity.

Per Adman has also studied why unemployment makes people passive. Is the explanation that unemployed people aren’t able to be active (that is, they lack the requisite resources) or that they don’t want to be (that is, they lack motivation). The explanation turns out to be that unemployment strips its victims of the resources for political activity: for instance, the unemployed more often wind up outside networks where questions about political activity occur (such as workplaces and community groups). The dissertation finds no support for the notion that unemployed persons lack political will. They do not lose their interest in politics.

The second section of the dissertation examines the importance of democratically organized workplaces. It is a traditional notion that the workplace is a suitable venue for citizens to practice democracy, so that they can personally take part in political decision-making. Per Adman finds no support, however, for a higher degree of political participation among those who experience greater democracy in the workplace. These findings, too, refute previous studies.

Name: Per Adman
Department: Department of Government, Uppsala University
Public defense: Friday, February 13, 2004
Per Adman can be reached at phone: +46 18-471 3415 or via e-mail at Per.Adman@statsvet.uu.se