Democratic Stability and Political Culture


Democracy can be distinguished by the specific methods of political organization. The democratic system suggests the provision of equal rights for all citizens, systematic selection of authorities, adoption of social and political mechanisms that ensure advantages for the major groups, and, at the same time, respect for the rights of minorities. Moreover, democracy implies the necessity for governmental proficiency, public control over political decision-making, as well as pluralism and equal opportunities for the competition of various political ideas and opinions. The realization of such universal methods of political power formation is based on granting governors and subordinate social groups with specific rights and responsibilities.

The researchers in the field of political studies repeatedly claim that the development of national governmental structures will inevitably lead the global society to the universal acceptance of democracy by developing social trust and the adoption of reciprocal forms of behavior (Jamal 127). However, as a result of the efforts to unify a great variety of the present-day political concepts and views regarding the position which democracy should take place in the system of human values, at the current stage of the social development, the idea of the integration of democratic principles into the practice of politics may seem impossible.

The democratization of society implies compliance with the principles of social equality and justice, refinement of methods and forms of citizen involvement in the process of management of productive, governmental, and social affairs; elimination of bureaucracy and corruption, increase in the level of education, as well as enhancement of political and legal culture at the national scale. The fulfillment of these objectives may create challenges for governments and citizens, but these criteria are necessary for the development of the political culture of democracy and its sustainability.

Political Culture

Political culture is the regulatory value system which may be regarded as one of the major elements of politics. This system exists as the commonly accepted and widespread political concepts and norms followed by the members of society (Welch 32).

Politics is the domain in which the individuals and social groups strive to realize their socially significant interests and political culture may be considered a mediator for this process of political realization – it can be manifested as an attitude towards power, political institutions, elites, leaders, and a variety of meanings enclosed in the mentioned concepts (Welch 128). Thus, it is possible to say that the term of political culture interrelates with perceptions of politics cultivated throughout the process of education, and the way a member of society interacts with authorities largely depends on these developed political perceptions.

The concept of political culture and behavior may be referred not merely to individuals but also to society as a whole. The government always attempts to develop a loyal attitude towards its own political performance through the consolidation of norms and stereotypes of social interactions, or endowing the national attributes, such as flags or anthems, with a special significance. Through the application of these practices, the governmental leaders attempt to unite society and provide the stability of relationships between the political elites and the rest of society.

However, national political culture can be non-persistent when its standards and rules are not accepted by all social groups. For example, in the countries characterized by the instability of institutional authority, where violence and violation of human rights become the main forms of political relations, the culture of democracy cannot survive, and it gives way to other patterns of political interactions (Berman 402). The history of the 20th century lends many examples of failure in the integration of democratic principles and expansion of fascist, racist, chauvinist, and terroristic movements which triggered the deterioration of political cultures and fostered the processes of civil society destruction.

It is possible to conclude that all citizens, directly or indirectly participating in political activities and decision making, cannot build the relationships based on the rules and standards promoted by a particular political culture and cannot develop trust towards the political elites promoting the related political values, and it means that the actual potential of political culture may vary from nation to nation (Paxton 261).

Thus, political culture cannot be considered the universal phenomenon which might penetrate all stages of the political process. However, it is possible to assume that throughout the process of development according to own laws and political principles, each nation may become able to influence the forms of domestic political organization, structure of political institutions, and character of international relations while simultaneously considering and applying some democratic principles.

Democratic Stability

The researchers suggest that the major premise for the formation of the democratic political system is the development of civil society (Muller and Seligson 635). The concept of civil society characterizes multiple forms of social activities that do not depend on the practices of political authorities and which represent the actual level of social self-sufficiency and self-organization (Muller and Seligson 635). The social interrelations that can be described by the term of civil society are the qualitative indicators of independent civil activities and the main criteria of differentiation between the social and governmental functions (Almond and Verba 15).

Civil society is also regarded as a form of unification of private and common social interests (Berman 403). As a rule, it can be developed through the expansion of non-hierarchical activities of the population and occurrence of multiple voluntary (ecological, confessional, professional and others) associations and communities influencing the changes in the social structure. Civil society fulfills a necessary function aimed to maintain the stability of democratic structure through the self-regulation of social interrelations, and retention of governmental intervention in the relations which people can control without the help of political institutions.

On the contrary, in authoritarian and totalitarian systems of power, civil activity is limited. It represents ideologized and politically initiated practices aimed to support the ruling regimes (Fish 5). Civil activities permitted within the boundaries of such systems are defined by the status and position of the citizens in the hierarchical organization of the society maintaining social inequality and segregation.

As Almond and Verba claim, the maintenance of an adequate balance between the political power and governmental responsibilities is one of the essential and most complex tasks of democracy (96). When citizens cannot control the actions and decisions of politicians, then the political system cannot be regarded as democratic. Since members of the society cannot substantially regulate political and public affairs on their own, and since the politicians and political leaders are given with great responsibilities that allow them to take important decisions related to the national welfare, the issue of government responsiveness and responsibility becomes very important for the implementation of democratic principles in practice.

The researchers suggest that the key to the maintenance of democratic stability is in the restructuring of the electorate system that may endow the particular political groups with power for a limited time (Almond and Verba 104). In this way, it may become possible to guarantee the balance between the level of political power and the responsibilities of leaders. Moreover, it is important to refine the patterns of communication between citizens and political authorities to ensure that the needs and interests of the population are taken into account in the process of political decision making.

Works Cited

Almond, Gabriel, and Sidney Verba. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. London: Sage Publications, 1989. Print.

Berman, Sheri. “Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic.” World Politics 49.3 (1997): 401-429. Web.

Fish, Steven. “Islam and Authoritarianism.” World Politics 55.1 (2002): 4-37. ProQuest. Web.

Jamal, Amaney. Barriers to Democracy: The Other Side of Social Capital in Palestine and the Arab World. Princeton, US: Princeton University Press, 2009. ProQuest ebrary. Web.

Muller, Edward, and Mitchell Seligson. “Civic Culture and Democracy: The Question of Causal Relationships.” The American Political Science Review 88.3 (1994): 635-659. Web.

Paxton, Pamela. “Social Capital and Democracy: An Interdependent Relationship.” American Sociological Review 67.2 (2002): 254-77. Web.

Welch, Stephen. The Theory of Political Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.

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