1. collective action and democracy;
  2. multicultural democracy;
  3. democratic auditing;
  4. political consumerism and individualized forms of political participation and responsibility-taking,
  5. creative participation,
  6. sustainable citizenship,
  7. communication as political action, and
  8. citizenship discourses.

The first period of my research career is characterized by research on collective action problems in Swedish civil society. Among the theoretical approaches involved in this research phase are corporatism and pluralism, decorporatization, conceptions of organizational democracy, organizational waves of development, political opportunity structures, organizational life cycles, industrial society, and postmaterialism. Among the scientific methods are interviews, text analysis, comparisons and case studies. To help conceptualize the collective action and problems and democratic problems involved in corporatism, I coined the term interest inarticulation, see "Toward Interest Inarticulation. A Major Consequence of Corporatism for Interest Organizations," Scandinavian Political Studies 13, No. 3 (1990): 1-22. I have studied civil society in terms of various relationships: organizations and their members; organizations and the state; relationships among organizations; organizations and the mass media and public opinion; organizations and globalization.


The second phase, multicultural democracy, overlaps with my more extensive involvement as a teacher. Some of my time as a fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences (SCASSS) was used to develop ideas for this research phase. Its general research aim was to understand how multiculturalism challenges democracy. The short-term project "Struggles with Dominant Society" studied attempts by subordinated groups to become respected in western democracies and reactions of dominant society to these attempts. The theoretical framework involved deliberative democracy, participation, toleration, multiculturalism, and democratic self-defense. A representative publication for this research phase is the Swedish publication "Den skandinaviska demokratins toleransgräns," Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning 1 (1997): 3-31 ("Scandinavian Democracy's Limits of Toleration").


Research phase three is entitled democratic auditing and reflects my involvement in the SNS Democratic Audit of Sweden (SNS Demokratiråd). For information on this audit in see: (in Swedish) and (in English). Much of my time at SCASSS in spring 1995 was devoted to this project. Together the five members of the research unit formulated a model to audit mature democracies. The model is different than many political science conceptualizations of democracy because it includes three criteria: popular; constitutional, and effective government. We published four reports, of which two were translated into English and one into Vietnamese. The reports are lists in my publications.


One of my on-going research interests is political consumerism, the use of the market as an arena for politics. An important aim of my first research project on political consumerism was to demark it as a phenomenon worthy of interest for social science research. Political consumerism interests political scientists in two ways. Students of organizational studies and bureaucracy find political consumerist institutions (e.g., eco-labeling schemes and Forest Stewardship Certification) of interest because they are market-based new regulatory schemes. Students of political action find political consumerism interesting because it is a way for people to become involved in and take responsibility for social, political, and world affairs. My special focus concerns the role of citizens and newer trends in citizen involvement in politics and the market as an arena for politics. Research from the SNS Demokratiråd, on social capital, and citizen involvement in democracy shows that citizens are interested in politics but less interested in conventional forms of political participation that are based on what I have termed collectivistic collective action. They are becoming more active in what I term individualized collective action. This concept is discussed the Political Virtue and Shopping: Individuals, Consumerism, and Collective Action (New York: Palgrave, 2003). Other publications in this field are included in my list of publications.

 

The book Creative Participation: Responsibility-Taking in the Political World presents the theory and practice of innovative forms of political participation. Citizens as consumers engage in political shopping; capitalists can build green developments; UK Muslim youth search the internet; Sicilian housewives take on the Mafia; young Evangelical ministers become concerned with social change; vegetarians make a olitical statement; individuals may swarm like honeybees. It’s all part of a new politics f participation; citizens cooperate in public action to achieve a common good.
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My research on political consumerism and interest in more individualized forms of political responsibility-taking has evolved into a new research endeavor. Currently I am finishing a project entitled Sustainable Citizenship: Opportunities and Barriers for Citizen Involvement in Sustainable Development. This project uses common consumer goods as a lens to study citizen understanding of the risks to sustainable development involved in everyday consumer practices and the role that individual citizens play in sustainable development processes. The project studies how knowledgeable individual citizens are about sustainable development, how well they accept its underlying values, and how well they apply them in their consumer practices. It also studies differences among citizens on these issues and the role that institutional communication on sustainable development plays in citizen choice of consumer goods. By investigating different groups of individual consumers (toys, fashion, and food) targeting different age groups, the project will be able to assess levels of citizen ability and willingness to engage in sustainability practices. These common, highly-purchased consumer goods are chosen because they are easily imported into Sweden and readily offered on the Swedish market. They represent areas where it is impossible for the state to completely create policy to ensure that the products are produced and consumed according to the tenets of sustainable development. The project focuses on an area of citizen activity (consumption) traditionally and commonly seen as part of private life and, thereby, difficult to regulate fully without infringing on citizens' rights and freedoms. Therefore, citizens themselves must exercise good (sustainable) judgment in their consumer choices. An important contribution of the project is its use of a variety of methods in its analysis of individual citizens' understanding of the relationship between consumption and sustainable development.

 

This research finding is leading me into the idea that communication and developing a personal political understanding (enlightened citizenship) is a form of political action. An initial attempt to sketch a research field regarding political understanding and communication as political action is published in the commemoration book (festskrift) for Professor Diane Sainsbury, emerita Lars Hierta Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University.  Communication and political understanding as political participation (211 Kb)

 

The general topic of citizenship is increasing as an important research focus of mine. This research interest is inspired by the conference “Citizenship in the Post-Political World” that we held at the department in 2010 and other citizenship-focused activities. This focus involves a broad view of citizenship norms, relationships and practices. My particular interest concerns citizenship discourses about the different expectations involved in citizenship and how they are included in institutional policy and practice, discussed in civil society and among individuals and practiced by a wide variety of political actors. A special focus is on “corporate citizenship” and how corporations relate to citizenship expectations in their policies and practices. An emerging research focus of mine is citizenship discourses in the MENA region, with a central concern being the relationship of the youth to citizenship expectations and their practice. For information on what this research is entailing see  “Sustainable Citizenship and the New Politics of Consumption,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol 644 (Michele Micheletti and Dietlind Stolle, forthcoming November 2012) and my article “Citizenship after the citizen’s year 2011” for the Forum Society for International Development.