Political alienation

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Political alienation refers to an individual citizen's relatively enduring sense of estrangement from or rejection of the prevailing political system.

Political alienation is not to be confused with voter apathy, which describes a person's indifference to voting and/or the voting process. When politically alienated, people feel compelled to vote, but are restricted by their sense of insignificance to the system. They feel that they are underrepresented or not represented at all by those running for office; their best interest or concerns are not regarded.[1]

Political alienation falls into two broad categories: political incapability and political discontentment. In the first instance, alienation is forced upon the individual by their environment, whereas in the second case it is voluntarily chosen by them.[2]

There are at least five expressions of political alienation:[3]

  1. Political powerlessness. An individual's feeling that they cannot affect the actions of the government.
  2. Political meaninglessness. An individual's perception that political decisions are unclear and unpredictable.
  3. Political normlessness. An individual's perception that norms or rules intended to govern political relations are broken down, and that departures from prescribed behavior are common.
  4. Political isolation. An individual's rejection of political norms and goals that are widely held and shared by other members of a society.
  5. Political disappointment. An individual's disinterest to a political decision or participation because of the ruling class bad behaviors, such as, leaders having scandals by doing shameful things.

Political alienation is adversely related to political efficacy.[2][3]

The most common electoral consequences of political alienation are abstention and protest voting.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Glasberg, Davita Silfen; Shannon, Deric (November 16, 2010). Political Sociology: Oppression, Resistance, and the State. SAGE Publications, Inc; 1 edition. ISBN 1412980402. OCLC 815880812.
  2. ^ a b c Olsen, Marvin E. (1968). "Two Categories of Political Alienation". Social Forces. 47: 288. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
  3. ^ a b c Finifter, Ada W. (June 1970). "Dimensions of Political Alienation". The American Political Science Review. 64 (2): 389–410. doi:10.2307/1953840. JSTOR 1953840.

External links[edit]

Lesson Plan for The Encyclopedia of Democracy - Congressional Quarterly Books: Political alienation