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Why Bother? Rethinking Participation in Elections and Protests, Susan C. Stokes and S. Erdem Aytaç

Reviewed by Ben Pryor

BUY

 

The 2016 U.S. presidential election brought a great deal of harsh rhetoric by an ultimately successful Donald Trump. A day after his inauguration, his controversial nature also brought the largest protest in U.S. history. This book helps explain how events of this nature unfold. In their new book, S. Erdem Aytaç and Susan C. Stokes revisit theories of collective action and test a new idea in the context of voting and protesting. Their theory explains important questions such as how politicians and activists use emotions to get people involved, and how protests spring into large-scale events.

Their book introduces a new theory—the costs of abstention—to explain public willingness to participate in collective events (p. 3). The book provides significant evidence to show that relying only on the costs of participation to explain collective events is not enough. They find that just as there are specific costs associated with participating in voting or protesting, there is an interplay between practical and emotional costs in participation. The emotional aspect of decision-making is central to their theory, doing well to explain previous elections and protests in a clear and concise manner. For instance, factors such as fear and anger are centrally important to their work.

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