Alexander Schuessler has done what many deemed impossible: he has wedded rational choice theory and the concerns of social theory and anthropology to explain why people vote. The "paradox of participation"--why individuals cast ballots when they have virtually no effect on electoral outcomes--has long puzzled social scientists. And it has particularly troubled rational choice theorists, who like to describe political activity in terms of incentives. Schuessler's ingenious solution is a "logic of expressive choice." He argues in incentive-based (or "economic") terms that individuals vote not because of how they believe their vote matters in the final tally but rather to express their preferences, allegiances, and thus themselves.
Through a comparative history of marketing and campaigning, Schuessler generates a "jukebox model" of participation and shows that expressive choice has become a target for those eliciting mass participation and public support. Political advisers, for example, have learned to target voters' desire to express--to themselves and to others--who they are. Candidates, using tactics such as claiming popularity, invoking lifestyle, using ambiguous campaign themes, and shielding supporters from one another can get out their vote even when it is clear that an election is already lost or won.
This important work, the first of its kind, will appeal to anyone seeking to decipher voter choice and turnout, social movements, political identification, collective action, and consumer behavior, including scholars, graduate students, and upper-level undergraduates in political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, and marketing. It will contribute greatly to our understanding and prediction of democratic participation patterns and their consequences.
"Intriguing, carefully argued, complex, and engagingly written ... this book makes a valuable contribution and deserves to be widely read by theorists on both sides of the theoretical divide."--Choice "A well-written piece full of perceptive discussions ... Schuessler's call to think of 'choice as being' is a powerful one... He has provided abundant food for thought for social scientists of many different persuasions."--Luis Fernando Medina, American Journal of Sociology
Preface ixChapter One Expressive Choice and Mass Participation 31.1 Approaching Noninstrumental Choice 51.2 Methodological, But Not Ontological, Individualism 61.3 Overview 8Part One: Theory 11Chapter Two A Jukebox Model of Participation 132.1 Claiming Popularity 162.2 Horizontal Shielding of Fellow Participants 182.3 Horizontal Shielding of Competing Producers 212.4 Imposing a Cost of Participation 232.5 Idiom versus Motivation 262.6 Conclusion 27Chapter Three Theoretical Frame 1: Choice and Doing 293.1 Turnout 313.2 Choice 363.3 Responses to the Participation Paradox 403.4 Preliminary Conclusion 47Chapter Four Theoretical Frame 2: Choice and Being 494.1 Expressive Motivation and Symbolic Utility 504.2 Operationalizing Expressive Choice 594.3 Conclusion 62Part Two: Analysis 65Chapter Five Soft Drinks and Presidents: The Rise of Expressive Campaigns 675.1 Marketing and Campaigning 685.2 Three Phases of Mass Appeals: Soft Drinks 745.3 Three Phases of Mass Appeals: Presidents 795.4 Shielding: The "Lemons" Problem 845.5 Conclusion 87Chapter Six Expressive Utility and Momentum 916.1 The Model 926.2 Heterogeneous Preferences and Turnout 1056.3 Discussion: Momentum 1126.4 Conclusion 117Chapter Seven Instrumental Enhancement and Its Expressive Costs 1197.1 Producer Interest and Producer Cost 1217.2 Raising Benefit 1247.3 Lowering Cost 1267.4 Analytical Effects 1287.5 Turnout and Negative Campaigning 1307.6 Supply Constraints 1317.7 Expressive Costs of Instrumental Enhancement 1337.8 Commodification 1377.9 Conclusion 139Chapter Eight Expressive Momentum Strategies 1418.1 Strategic Distortion of Participation Levels 1428.2 "Visible" Participation 1438.3 Expressive Essence 1448.4 Comparative Statics 1458.5 Nonequilibrium Optima and Groucho Equilibria 1468.6 The Cost of Inducing Marginal Participation 1478.7 Distortion Targets and Controlling Momentum 1488.8 Cost Constraints 1508.9 Profit Maximization versus Participant Maximization 1528.10 Composition of Utility 1538.11 Conclusion 156Conclusion 159References 163Index 171