Political culture is defined by the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences as "the set of attitudes, beliefs and sentiments that give order and meaning to a political process and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system". It encompasses both the political ideals and operating norms of a polity. Political culture is thus the manifestation in aggregate form of the psychological and subjective dimensions of politics. A political culture is the product of both the collective history of a political system and the life histories of the members of the system and thus it is rooted equally in public events and private experience".
In the early 1960s, two Americans, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, outlined three pure types of political culture in Great Britain that can combine to create civic culture. These three key features expressed by both men were composed to establish a link between the public and the government. The first of these features is "deference", which considers the concepts of respect, acknowledgment of "inferiority" or "superiority", and authority in society.
The second key feature is "consensus", which represents the key link between government and public agreement and appeasement. Support for appeasement may not always be shared by the whole nation, but as a whole people agree to sustain it, meaning it is a common agreement. There are various "Examples of Consensus" in British political culture: how we are governed as a whole, consenus regarding the welfare state, agreement as to who acts as head of state, and with what powers.
The third feature of British political culture is "homogeneity". Church attendance as a whole is decreasing. Sections of the Scottish and Welsh populations have called for independence.
The term political culture was brought into political science to promote the American political system. The concept was used by Gabriel Almond in the late 50s, and outlined in The Civic Culture (1963, Almond & Verba), but was soon opposed by two European political scientists, Gerhard Lehmbruch and Arend Lijphart. Lehmbruch analysed politics in Switzerland and Austria and Lijphart analysed politics in Netherlands. Both argued that there are political systems that are more stable than the one in the USA.
Different typologies of political culture have been proposed. According to political scientist William S. Stewart, all political behavior can be explained as participating in one or more of eight political cultures: anarchism, oligarchy, Tory corporatism, fascism, classical liberalism, radical liberalism, democratic socialism, and Leninist socialism. Societies that exemplify each of these cultures have existed historically.
Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba in The Civic Culture outlined three pure types of political culture based on level and type of political participation and the nature of people's attitudes toward politics:
- Parochial - Where citizens are only remotely aware of the presence of central government, and live their lives near enough regardless of the decisions taken by the state, distant and unaware of political phenomena. They have neither knowledge nor interest in politics. This type of political culture is in general congruent with a traditional political structure.
- Subject - Where citizens are aware of central government, and are heavily subjected to its decisions with little scope for dissent. The individual is aware of politics, its actors and institutions. It is affectively oriented towards politics, yet he is on the "downward flow" side of the politics. In general congruent with a centralized authoritarian structure.
- Participant - Citizens are able to influence the government in various ways and they are affected by it. The individual is oriented toward the system as a whole, to both the political and administrative structures and processes (to both the input and output aspects). In general congruent with a democratic political structure.
Almond and Verba wrote that these types of political culture can combine to create the civic culture, which mixes the best elements of each.
Arend Lijphart wrote that there are different classifications of political culture:
- First classification:
- Mass political culture
- Elite political culture
- Second classification (of elite political culture):
Lijphart also classified the structure of society:
|Structure of society (right)||homogeneous||heterogeneous|
|Political culture of
|coalitional||depoliticalised democracy||consociative democracy|
|contradictive||centripetal democracy||centrifugal democracy|
María Eugenia Vázquez Semadeni defines political culture as "the set of discourses and symbolic practices by means of which both individuals and groups articulate their relationship to power, elaborate their political demands and put them at stake."
- International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, New York: Macmillen, 1968, Vol. 12, p. 218 (quoted in Jo Freedman, The Political Culture of the Democratic and Republican Parties (1986).
- Stanford Report, Obit: Gabriel Almond, January 8, 2003
- Lukšič, Igor (2006). Politična kultura, p.40-42. FDV, Ljubljana. Retrieved on June 29, 2007.
- [Vázquez Semadeni, M. E. (2010). La formación de una cultura política republicana: El debate público sobre la masonería. México, 1821-1830. Serie Historia Moderna y Contemporánea/Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas; núm. 54. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/El Colegio de Michoacán. ISBN 978-607-02-1694-7]
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- Wilson, Richard W. "The Many Voices of Political Culture: Assessing Different Approaches," in World Politics 52 (January 2000), 246-73