Classical republicanism and the contemporary voter: An empirical cultural sociology of the relationship between the private realm and the public sphere
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AbstractPolitical behavior is often explained on the basis of the general presupposition that an individual's life experiences generate interests that, in turn, influence voting. The alternative conception, based on cultural sociology, explains ways of feeling, thinking, and doing (e.g., voting) on the basis of a social-symbolic text that creates a symbolic order, that influences a person's perception of his situation, and that establishes a legitimate link between this perception and a way to politically act upon it. A cultural sociology of politics has therefore, first, to answer the question whether today the private and the public spheres are fused or compartmentalized and, if compartmentalized, then which of the two influences voting.Hypotheses that can be derived from those different theoretical positions are tested on the basis of a purely random sample collected in 2006 of 2656 Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Belgium, aged 19–81. Findings indicate that the private and the public realms are compartmentalized—and it is not the degree of satisfaction with the private realm, but the evaluation of the public realm, that influences important electoral decisions. These findings run counter the hypotheses derived from rational choice theory, illustrating the importance of a cultural sociology of politics.

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