political practice

Political culture

Political culture can be defined as "The orientation of the citizens of a nation toward politics, and their perceptions of political legitimacy and the traditions of political practice," and the feelings expressed by individuals in the position of the elected offices that allow for the nurture of a political society.


  • Kavanagh defines political culture as "A shorthand expression to denote the set of values within which the political system operates".
  • Pye describes it as "the sum of the fundamental values, sentiments and knowledge that give form and substance to political process".

What is political culture?

It is a distinctive and patterned form of political philosophy that consists of beliefs on how governmental, political, and economic life should be carried out. Political cultures create a framework for political change and are unique to nations, states, and other groups. A political culture differs from political ideology in that people can disagree on an ideology (what government should do) but still share a common political culture. Some ideologies, however, are so critical of the status quo that they require a fundamental change in the way government is operated, and therefore embody a different political culture as well.

The term political culture was brought into political science to promote the American political system. The concept was used by Gabriel Almond in 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.

Types of political culture

Almond & Verba

Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba outlined three pure types of political culture:

  • 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.
  • Subject - Where citizens are aware of central government, and are heavily subjected to its decisions with little scope for dissent.
  • Participant - Citizens are able to influence the government in various ways and they are affected by it.

These three 'pure' types of political culture can combine to create the 'civic culture', which mixes the best elements of each.


By Lijphart, there are different classifications of political culture:

1. classification:

  • Political culture of masses
  • Political culture of the elite(s)

2. classification (of political culture of the elites):

  • coalitional
  • contradictive

Lijphart also classified structure of the society:

Structure of society (right) homogeneous heterogeneous
Political culture of elites (down)
coalitional depoliticalised democracy consociative democracy
contradictive centripetal democracy centrifugal democracy

The most stable political system is consociative democracy which has the heterogeneous society in which all parts of the society work together and not contradict each other. Those kind of systems are common in Scandinavia (especially Sweden).

Further reading

  • Almond, Gabriel A., Verba, Sidney The Civic Culture. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1965.
  • Aronoff, Myron J. “Political Culture,” in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, eds., (Oxford: Elsevier, 2002), 11640.
  • Barzilai, Gad. Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.
  • Diamond, Larry (ed.) Political Culture and Democracy in Developing Countries.
  • Kertzer, David I. Politics and Symbols. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.
  • Kertzer, David I. Ritual, Politics, and Power. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.
  • Kubik, Jan. The Power of Symbols Against The Symbols of Power. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994.
  • Laitin, David D. Hegemony and Culture. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1986.
  • Lukšič, Igor. Politična kultura. Ljubljana: The University of Ljubljana, 2006.
  • Wilson, Richard W. "The Many Voices of Political Culture: Assessing Different Approaches," in World Politics 52 (January 2000), 246-73


See also

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