24 Nov

Definition :

Definitions of political culture are many and varied. Roy Macridis says that it is "the commonly shared goals and the commonly accepted rules" regarding government and politics. Sidney Verba says, political culture is "the system of empirical beliefs, expressive symbols and values, which defines the situation in which political action takes place."

One difficulty of defining political culture is that it is a result of two opposite and sometimes contradictory trends, namely the political beliefs and attitudes of the individual, and the political values and attitudes of the people and society in which he or she lives. Individual's attitudes and values are the result of political socialization through which he or she has gone from childhood to adult age, which orientate him or her towards the political, system. Political orientation of the individual can be due to three factors: individual perceptions of the political system and of its political personalities and structures; his or her feelings towards them; and the conclusions and opinions a person draws about them. These perceptions, attitudes and opinions produce effects on the political system. This is called his or her political efficacy. It means that the citizen can influence positively or negatively the decisions and policies of the rulers by his efforts, such as by his or her vote. This belief is the basis of democratic political culture. On the contrary, a person may believe that his political system is one of bribery, favouritism, nepotism and influence peddling. In this case, its political culture excites feelings of distrust, apathy, and a low degree of commitment to the political system. 

We may define the political culture as those ideas, values, attitudes or orientations about a political system, which are acceptable to and shared by the majority of the people in the State.


Every political culture consists of various elements, which are orientations of the people towards different aspects s of the political system. They are as follows:

1.Orientations towards governmental structures :

It means orientations towards governmental inputs and outputs. They may result allegiance or alienation of the people towards the government. Robert Dahl has characterized these orientations or attitudes as allegiant or alienated. The allegiant orientations cause stability and continuity in the political system, while the alienated orientations lead to instability and change, which may result in revolt, revolution or transformation of the political system.

2. Orientations towards other people

They produce trustful or distrustful attitudes towards the political authorities or government. They arise when the people ask: does government mean well in its policies and acts?

3. Orientations towards collective actions

This kind of orientation or attitude is the basis of an individual's political participation, Which may be active or passive. Active orientation makes an individual believe that he can influence the decision-makers in the political system by his efforts. In case of passive orientation, the individual has no faith in his ability to influence the decision-makers. Instead, he passively accepts what they do. This is the basic difference between democratic and non-democratic political cultures.

In truly democratic countries, political cultures are quite different. In the United States, for example, people show their respect to men of authority but in a dignified manner. They only  shake hands and address even the President of America as "Mr. President". It is because the American Constitution had abolished all kinds of feudal honours and modes of address.


The structural and functional differences in political systems give us different kinds or types of political cultures. Broadly speaking, they are of five types, as under:

1. Parochial political culture, in which there is loyalty and allegiance to the tribes or tribal groups, as in the stateless societies of the primitive  times or of the sub-Saharan African tribes of the past and present times.

2. The parochial-subject political culture, in which the first loyalty and allegiance of an Individual is towards his caste or tribe or local community, and lesser allegiance to the State. The State also fulfils minimal demands of its subjects. As the culture is parochial, the people do not make many demands on the State; they are not citizens, but subjects. This type of culture existed in ancient and medieval times, as in the Gupta Empire of ancient India, or the Mughal Empire of medieval India, or in the Ottoman Empire, etc.

3. Parochial Participant Culture, The parochial participant political culture is one in which commitment and allegiance to the parochial communities, like caste, tribes and local communities or baradaris is still strong but the people also participate in the political activities of the State, such as elections, in which they cast their votes in the interest of their parochial groups, not for the political parties or national interest. This kind of culture is found mostly in the newly-independent countries of Asia and Africa and of South America.

4. Subject political culture, It is one in which there are several political sub-cultures therefore the subjects (people) participate in the political authority to a limited extent; hence, they are not citizens, e.g. in the Bourbon France before the French Revolution of 1789. It becomes subject participant culture, when the subjects (people) participate in the political system to some extent. In this culture, there is some alienation and apathy among the people. This type of political culture is found in modern France, Germany, Italy, etc.

5. Participant Political Culture, In this type of political culture the people participate in the political authority. They are, therefore, not subjects, but citizens. G. Almond and S. Verba have called this type of political culture as civic culture, as for example, in the United Kingdom or in the United States. This type of political culture requires two things of the citizens: rationality and active participation in political affairs. Political thinkers, from Locke to Harold Laski, have always favoured this kind of the rationality-activist model of political culture. According to this model, a successful democracy requires the citizens to be involved and active in politics, informed about the political affairs as well as influential in them. Their decisions, including that of voting, should be based on a careful evaluation of evidence and careful weighing of alternatives. The passive, non-voting, poorly-informed, or apathetic citizens may weaken democracy. Moreover, they should not be motivated by any lesser loyalties or solidarities, as do the voters in parochial participant cultures. Such a model of active and rational participation emphasizes the participant orientation to politics, and especially to political inputs, or demands of the people. Their allegiance is also primarily to the state or nation, even though they differ among themselves on party or policy matters.

6. Authoritarian participant culture, It is the type of political culture in which participation in political affairs and decisions is according to the authority of the state or government. The ruler is the real decision-maker; the people, as voters, are to comply with his decisions. This type culture existed in Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, Communist China and such other countries.

Lastly, political cultures are rarely integrated and homogeneous wholes. Instead, they may have one or more political sub-cultures due to racial, ethnic, religious and other reasons. This fact may result in one sector of the culture to change or develop more rapidly that lead to the disintegration of a political system of the country, due to its ethnic, religious, sectors or groups. If the sub-culture is more powerful, it may become such a political force as to lead to disintegration  of a political system of the country, due to its ethnic, religious, linguistic and such other differences in it. It is necessary, therefore, for such a political system to foster homogeneous and uniform economic, social and cultural development in the country. This is the essence of nationalism.

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