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activismactive involvement as a member of a POLITICAL PARTY, PRESSURE GROUP, or related political organization, e.g. a ‘trades union activist’. Theories and research concerned with political activism suggest that the tendency is for activists generally to be of higher social status, more socially confident and often better informed than most nonactivists. Levels of political activism also vary according to political circumstances. For example, in times of political crisis many people may be drawn into politics who would not normally be politically active. Some theorists, especially in POLITICAL SCIENCE (e.g. LIPSET, 1959), have suggested that in Western societies, in such circumstances, high levels of political activity and less informed participants may pose a threat to the 'S tability of democracy’. More generally, however, increased participation in politics by members of lower status minority groups (e.g. new URBAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS) is regarded as a favourable development. See also POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, OPINION LEADERS, TWOSTEP FLOW IN MASS COMMUNICATIONS, STABLE DEMOCRACY, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000