Political Culture and Civic Culture

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How does the concept of ‘civic culture' differ from that of ‘political culture'? To what extent can the latter explain why the politics of countries differ?

"When we speak of the political culture, we refer to the political system as internalized in cognitions, feelings, and evaluations of its population." Almond and Verba

In their classic 1963 study, Civic Culture, political culture was defined within very narrow parameters, concerning only ‘political' attitudes. This neglected the existence of other non-psychological factors such as political skills and race that played an equally important role in influencing the political system as political culture. This is one of the many limits of political culture. However, in this essay we will realize that despite the limits of political culture, it is nevertheless an imperative political characteristic of a country. Almond & Verba's ideology of a civic culture has its limits as well. Despite this similiarity, these two forms of cultures have broad differences.

Being a fairly new theory and also a touchstone in the study of political culture, Almond and Verba's idea of civic and political culture has been under speculation by other political professionals. This essay will define civic culture and inspect its criticisms. We will then inspect the contrasts between civic and political culture, as will be evident when defining political culture. I will then advance to study the effectiveness of the theory of political culture in three different scenarios. Through understanding the limits of political culture, we will be able to briefly consider the existence of other factors aside from ‘political' attitudes that could affect governmental policies.

Civic Culture

The idea of a civic culture emerged in 1963, from a classic study entitled Civic Culture by Almond and Verba. In this study, a survey was conducted in five different countries to identify what type of political culture would be the most appropriate for a liberal democracy to successfully develop.

Through this, Almond and Verba had also identified three different forms of ‘pure' culture; namely the Parochial Culture, where the citizens are hardly aware of the existence of a government as the policies created do not have a strong impact in their lives. This culture is especially evident among tribes such as the Dayak tribes in Borneo who live far from the centre and hence seeing little importance of policies, such as the implementation of road fines, in their daily lives.

The second culture is the Subject Culture, where citizens view themselves as subjects to the government, not as participants actively contributing to and benefiting from a political process. This culture would exist in situations where people are not given the right to voice out their opinions and are forced to heed one governing body. The most extreme example could be in the Roman dictatorship during 360 BC, where the dictator was granted absolute power and the people could not participate in the political arena.

The last type of culture is the Participant Culture. It is this form of culture that has grown to be most favorable as it is where citizens believe they could contribute to the political systems and are yet affected by it. Such a culture could be prominent in countries such as New Zealand that have strong liberal democracies.

However, as many would suppose having a Participant Culture across the nation would be the best foundation for a liberal democracy, it is interesting to find that Almond and Verba had come up with opposing theories. They believed the combination of all three of the above cultures would be the best ‘political culture' for the establishment of a liberal democracy. This certain combination is termed Civic Culture.

Therefore, a civic culture is a society where the majority is of a participant culture so as to make up the active, participative part of society. The remaining minority is to possess a...
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