Great Britain and Civil Society

Great Britain is a democratic state, which implies a political system ruled by elected representatives, who are simultaneously accountable to their voters. Nevertheless, almost every democratic system’s dilemma is the question of whether such a statement is true. McCormick (85) believes that in practice, there is a substantial gap between voters and their elected representatives in Britain. Moreover, over the past years, the country has undergone many changes affecting its policies, economy, and society. Jessop (133) believes that the crisis in the country has been going on since the post-war period. Despite its reputation as a traditional and stable state, Britain is experiencing many near-revolutionary changes.

The way citizens live is determined not only by government regulations but also by people themselves. For this reason, in democratic states, it is crucial how citizens to influence politics, that is, use their privileges to govern the country. They have the right and opportunity to act separately from the state within civil society, guided by socially accepted rules. Thus, civil society is a voluntary form of activity that affects policy but occurs separately from state subjects (Harris 352). Such actions demonstrate the interest of citizens in various political issues.

The influence of citizens on politics is manifested in several forms. It is most important to distinguish elections, participation in political parties or interest groups, and impact through mass media. These forms are more peaceful and accepted, but others manifest themselves mainly in cases of intense dissatisfaction with specific actions. They include examples such as strikes, protests, demonstrations, or boycotts. McCormick (105) notes that the British have recently been inclined to choose not traditional methods – joining the party or even voting, but supporting interest groups or other forms of influence. Such preferences are dictated by changes in the country and how they influenced its political culture, which includes norms, standards, and expectations for politics and sets limits for both politicians and civil society. McCormick (110-115) identifies such vital elements in British culture as pragmatism, reduced faith in the political system, confused identity, closed society, and social liberalism. Their importance and influence determine the political issues of concern and how a community responds to them.

Pragmatism includes a focus on realism and a practical approach. This feature is considered traditional and the older generation gradually turned pessimism, which does not allow them to focus on new changes. At the same time, another important quality is social liberalism, which determines the attitude to issues that cause a lot of controversy in other countries. For example, the death penalty has long been prohibited, and same-sex marriage is allowed. The confused national identity also brings challenges to society, as previously, it could be confidently argued that although the British are not fierce patriots, they are proud citizens of their country (McCormick 112). However, the emphasized separation of nations such as the Scots and the Irish provoked doubts about determining who is British.

Declining faith in the political system dramatically affects the actions of British citizens. Law and order are the basis for a stable and prosperous society and must be ensured by the government. However, the question arises for many world states’ citizens – can the government be trusted, as its representatives have many opportunities for abuse. In the British case, citizens of this country have become more self-reliant and noted that politicians do not adequately respond to the people’s needs. Distrust can be reinforced by such a characteristic as the closed society, which extended not only to private lives but also to state representatives’ actions. Recently, information on political activities has become more accessible, but at the same time, the powers of the government have expanded.

Mistrust and increased awareness of politics changed the preference for choosing methods of influence among citizens. There are several types of elections in Britain – general, European, and local, as well as referendums. The country also has a multi-party system, but the Conservative and Labor Party have the most significant influence. Despite their practical power, as previously noted, citizens choose other impact methods, which need to be considered in more detail.

Interest groups include both pressure groups with a large budget and small charitable organizations. Due to the dissemination of information that worries various people, the number of interest groups and their activity areas increases significantly. There are three most influential groups in Britain – the Trades Union Congress, the Confederation of British Industry, and environmental movements (McCormick 129). The activities of such groups can be not only national but also international. Another effective means of influence is media, which has become more independent thanks to the rapid development of technology. However, technology can still have a controversial effect since television, radio, and newspapers are traditional in their activities and understandable, but their popularity is declining due to social media. Meanwhile, the Internet can be a powerful tool for civil society, but its peculiarity is that people can spread inaccurate information.

Thus, Britain has been passing through near-revolutionary changes over the past decades, which affect its political life and civil society. The most influential factors determining the dynamics of various political problems are pragmatism, social liberalism, confused identity, reduced faith in the political system, and closed society. British citizens, choosing methods of influence on the country’s politics, tend to prefer interest groups over elections or participation in political parties. Thanks to the development of technology, media has also become a more influential tool of civil society.


Harris, Margaret. “UK Civil Society: Changes and Challenges in the Age of New Public Governance and the Marketized Welfare State.” Nonprofit Policy Forum. vol. 8, no. 4, 2018, pp. 351-368.

Jessop, Bob. “The Organic Crisis of The British State: Putting Brexit in Its Place.” Globalizations, vol. 14, no. 1, 2017, pp. 133-141.

McCormick, John. Contemporary Britain. 4th ed., Red Globe Press, 2018.

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