Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture Revisited (1980), Chapter 1.

‘Important Insight: political culture matters, is plastic, and both affects and is affected by structure. It is not a theory, but rather refers to a set of variables which may be used in the construction of theories.

 

Lastly, there are three aspects of political culture: system culture, process culture, and policy culture: a) system culture, which involves the “distribution of attitudes toward the national community, the regime, and the authorities” (28); b) process culture, which includes “attitudes toward the self in politics (e.g. parochial-subject-participant) and attitudes toward other political actors (e.g. trust, cooperative competence, hostility)” (28); and c) policy culture, which consists “of the distribution of preference regarding the outputs and outcomes of politics, the ordering among different grouping in the population of such political values as welfare, security, and liberty” (28)

 

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Notes

 

-Almond starts off by telling us that “the notion of political culture change is one of the most powerful themes of classical literature” (2)

-Plato: “governments vary as the disposition of men vary, and that there must be as many of the one as there are of the other. For we cannot suppose that States are made of ‘oak and rock’ and not of the human natures which are in them” (2)

-states as human constructs will reflect the humans that construct them

-recurring Aristotelian notion that the “best attainable form of government is the mixed form in a society in which the middle classes predominate. Mixed government is one organized on both oligarchic and democratic principles.” (3)

-Conversely, “a society in which the middle class is small produces a state ‘consisting of slaves and masters, not of free men, and of one class envious and another contemptuous of their fellows. This condition of affairs is very far removed from friendless, and from political partnership…,’ which Aristotle believed to be the cultural basis of the best and most lasting form of government” (4)

-political culture resurges from the 1960s on following “the failure of enlightenment and liberal expectations as they related to political development” (6)

-it was the “liberal faith in the inevitability of incremental economic and political progress pushed forward by the progress of science and the spread of reason that underlay the discipline of comparative government and politics as it emerged in the late nineteenth century”  (7)

-democracy’s collapse on the continent challenged this notion of inevitable progress, and led to numerous studies stressing the importance of civic culture

-Almond and Verba’s The Civic Culture carried on this examination, and found that:

-in contrast to enlightenment expectations, although “education and media exposure turned out to be powerfully related to civic competence and participation… the political propensities associated with education were primarily cognitive in character,” related to things like having more information and understanding with regard to politics, and being more confident about “one’s ability to be politically effective,” (23) “education in the formal sense does not necessarily produce the affective and evaluative components of a civic culture, such as civic obligation and trust. These attitudes and values seem to be significantly affected by national and group historical and life experience.” (24)

-they also found that “membership and activity in organizations could independently produce civic competence,” and that there was a relationship “between the sense of political competence, political participation, and positive support for the political system, and relationships between general trust in people and cooperativeness in politics” (25)

-Almond stresses, however, that “political culture is not a theory; it refers to a set of variables which may be used in the construction of theories” (26)

-he also points out that there are “differences of opinion as to the definition and specification of the content of political culture” (26)

**-he states that there are 3 aspects of political culture:

***a) system culture, which involves the “distribution of attitudes toward the national community, the regime, and the authorities” (28)

***b) process culture, which includes “attitudes toward the self in politics (e.g. parochial-subject-participant) and attitudes toward other political actors (e.g. trust, cooperative competence, hostility)” (28)

***c) policy culture, which consists “of the distribution of preference regarding the outputs and outcomes of politics, the ordering among different grouping in the population of such political values as welfare, security, and liberty” (28)

-he also considers what he says is the main criticism of the political culture literature, namely “that it imputes a causal direction to the relation between culture and structure, implying that the culture produces the structure” (28)

-he responds that “political culture [at least in their study] is treated as both an independent and dependent variable, as causing structure and being caused by it.” (29)

-in a related criticism, the political culture literature is accused of tending “to overlook the importance of political structure, particularly deliberate and organized efforts to transform political culture as in Cuba and other Communist countries” (29)

-in response to this point, Almond argues that these attempts were in fact largely unsuccessful, and that while “political culture is [not] an intractable variable… there are limits to its plasticity” (32)

-lastly, while Rogowski argues that “there are clear-cut relationships between socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious interests and political structure, and that a rational individualist explanation of political structure is a more powerful and parsimonious theory than political culture theory,” (29-30) Almond counters that “Rogowski’s position is not sustainable by evidence.”

-although “the rational self-interest of social class and of ethnic and religious groups is a powerful dynamic illuminating political movements and conflicts, and contributing significantly to historical outcomes,” aspects of political culture such as “patriotism, community loyalty, religious values, and simple habit and tradition obviously enter into the explanation of political structure and legitimacy” (30)

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