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Studies of participation often explore how ‘ordinary’ citizens participate in public life. In contrast to this focus, this paper explores how the wealthiest classes in society participate in public life. Drawing from 90 interviews among the wealthiest 0.1% in Finland, the paper explores how three groups – business executives, entrepreneurs and inheritors – participate in public life. Overall, the results suggest that the wealthiest groups are often reluctant to enter public dialogue and fearful of the dire consequences that publicity could cause for them. Many of them recount unpleasant examples of media, journalism and publicity, and refrain from using social media. At the same time, however, many relate that they have access to policymakers. The wealthy tend to feel confident that their voice is heard and access to policymakers is granted when needed. Therefore, the wealthiest class has developed specific forms of hidden, yet effective participation. The participants’ political participation may be latent or manifest, and although it seems that the wealthy prefer to remain hidden, they are able to maintain access to policymaking. Therefore, public participation should be studied in both social and political contexts. Future research should ask who participates and identify the consequences of this participation.
9 aug 2019
American Sociological Association, Förenta Staterna (USA)