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At its core, political culture—the shared values and beliefs of a group or society regarding political relationships and public policy—answers the question of how human beings are going to live together. That is, political culture answers the question of who gets to do what with and to whom under what circumstances. Political culture also answers the question of who decides, who has authority, and who has power in a group, organization, institution, or other social unit in society.
624 Political Culture
(i.e., the Jews, against whom he expressed a clear
anti-Semitism), to build a “national state” with a
single language and religion. Zygmunt Balicki
(1858–1916) had similar ideas.
With the rise of communism after World War
II, political theory was forced into a frame of an
internal debate within Marxism. In the early years,
Adam Schaff (1913–2006) was an important figure;
after an initial membership of Stalinist orthodoxy, he
gradually assumed a more open position and ended
up becoming one of the leading representatives of
humanistic Marxism. He was gradually embracing
the positions of Leszek Kołakowski (1927–2009)
known for so-called “Marxist revisionism,” stress-
ing the importance of the moral judgment of the
individual, which cannot be justified by historical
Socialist and Marxist ideas also were found in
the writing of Ludwik Krzywicki (1859–1941), who
proposed the idea of “historical substrate,” which
stresses the strength of the institutions, beliefs,
anthropological characteristics, and human “psy-
chic races” in changing the general law of the his-
torical process indicated by Marxism. Another of his
conceptions is the theory of “migration of ideas,”
according to which ideas can “migrate” (even in
later times) from the country where they originated
to other countries that because of their less devel-
oped social conditions are incapable of expressing
these ideas autonomously.
The so-called “non-Marxist historical material-
ism” of Leszek Nowak (1943–2009) is the attempt
to use an idealizing method to extend the dichotomy
of capitalist/proletariat also to the dynamics of
politics and culture, through oppositions of rulers/
subjects and priests/believers. Another significant
contribution is that of Jadwiga Staniszkis (1942),
who criticized the myth of Solidarność and the
theory of socialism and postcommunism as well as,
more recently, the phenomenon of globalization.
The end of communism saw the rejection of
Marxist political theories and a great opening toward
the importation of Western thought, especially what
was until then held on the fringes: neoliberalism,
American neoconservatism, and the influences of
Karl Popper and his ideas about open society. These
Western strains of thought were often combined
with indigenous traditions, such as neo-monarchist
ideas. Among the most significant and young repre-
sentatives of these trends are Marcin Król (b. 1944),
Paweł Śpiewak (b. 1951), Jacek Bartyzel (b. 1956),
Robert Gwiazdowski (b. 1960), and Marek Cichocki
(b. 1966).
Francesco Coniglione
See also Communism, Varieties of; Eighteenth-Century
Political Thought; Globalization; Marx, Karl;
Neoconservatism; Neoliberalism; Nineteenth-Century
Political Thought; Popper, Karl; Republicanism;
Revolution; Socialism; Twentieth-Century Political
Further Readings
Bernacki, W. 2011. Myśl Polityczna I Rzeczpospolitej.
Kraków, Poland: Arcana.
Janowski, M. 2004. Polish Liberal Thought before 1918.
Budapest-New York: CEU Press.
Kucharczyk, G. 2009. Polska Myśl Polityczna Po Roku
1939. Dębogóra, Poland: Dębogóra Wydawnictwo.
Ludwikowski, R. 1982. Main Currents of Polish Political
Thought 1815–1890. Warszawa, Poland: Panstwowe
Wydawnictwo Naukowe.
Walicki, A. 1994. Philosophy and National Romanticism:
The Case of Poland. Notre Dame, IN: University of
Notre Dame Press.
If politics poses the question of “who gets what,
when, where, and how,” then political culture sup-
plies a big part of the answer. If politics is the “art of
the possible,” then political culture helps define the
limits of that art, for culture defines what is gener-
ally permissible in a given society.
At its core, political culture—the shared values
and beliefs of a group or society regarding political
relationships and public policy—answers the ques-
tion of how human beings are going to live together.
That is, political culture answers the question of who
gets to do what with and to whom under what cir-
cumstances. Political culture also answers the ques-
tion of who decides, who has authority, and who
has power in a group, organization, institution, or
other social unit in society. In answering this latter
set of questions, political culture also supplies much
of the answer to the two prior questions about “who
gets . . . ?” and “what is possible?” When elements
of popular culture, high culture, and/or the culture
Copyright © 2013 SAGE Publications. Not for sale, reproduction, or distribution.
Political Culture
studied by anthropologists are seen to impinge on or
be entailed in political culture, then, arguably, they
become part of the answer to these questions as well.
It is the political socialization process that pro-
duces and reproduces cultural attitudes about power,
legitimacy, authority, and public policy. This process,
by which political values and beliefs are instilled in
citizens, is controlled and shaped by such interrelated
authorities as parents, teachers and boards of educa-
tion, clergy, business owners and media programmers,
and public officials. These agents of political social-
ization determine what political themes will prevail
in the consciousness of citizens regarding the proper
purpose of government, the role of ordinary citizens
in the political process, the kinds of people who
should be entrusted with decision-making authority,
the political limits and possibilities of human nature,
and the ways in which government should or should
not be involved in economics, education, religion,
and the family. In general, the prevailing political cul-
ture tends to help perpetuate the existing structure of
power, but under certain circumstances, the opposite
may be true. Political change, including revolution, is
invariably preceded by a weakening or challenging
of the existing political culture. And political culture
can itself be a source of change when we conceive
of countries and organizations as being composed of
contending political subcultures.
Political culture has been and remains an impor-
tant concept for many political scientists, and it will
probably always be so. Aristotle, Charles-Louis
Montesquieu, Alexis de Tocqueville, and other
great students of politics sought to understand and
explain political culture even when they did not use
the term. Political scientists who have made political
culture central to their research programs include
Gabriel Almond, Harry Eckstein, Daniel Elazar,
Ronald Inglehart, Robert Putnam, Sidney Verba, and
Aaron Wildavsky. Almond and Verba’s The Civic
Culture (1963) and Putnam’s Making Democracy
Work (1993) and Bowling Alone (2000) are modern
classics of political-cultural studies, and Elazar’s The
American Mosaic (1994) should become one.
In political-cultural studies, it has been common
to focus on identifying the political attitudes, values,
beliefs, and ideologies that are associated with and
help explain the behaviors of certain individuals,
groups, organizations, and institutions, and to study
how the latter in turn contribute to the develop-
ment of the former. Indeed, the complex, dynamic,
and reciprocal relationships between psychological
and cultural variables, on the one hand, and group
and institutional variables, on the other, belie any
simple or linear explanation of political cause and
effect. Nonetheless, in many studies, political cul-
tures are often characterized in nominal terms, so
that analysts speak of the culture of countries, states,
agencies, corporations, groups, and peoples.
Political scientists also frequently find it helpful to
develop typologies of political culture and theories
that help explain political-cultural similarities and
differences in what would otherwise appear to be
an incomparable, cacophonous array of entities and
individuals. For example, Ronald Inglehart (1990)
distinguishes materialistic from postmaterialistic
political cultures; Daniel Elazar (1994) identifies
individualistic, moralistic, and traditionalistic politi-
cal cultures; and Aaron Wildavsky (Thompson,
Ellis, and Wildavsky 1990; Wildavsky 1998, 2006)
analyzes individualistic, egalitarian, hierarchical,
and fatalistic political cultures.
The theories and types of political culture devel-
oped by these political scientists have stimulated a
great deal of additional scholarly inquiry into politi-
cal culture itself and into the related topics of politi-
cal socialization, political psychology, and political
Brendon Swedlow
See also Civil Society; Conservatism; Democratic Theory;
Liberalism; Montesquieu, Baron de; Political Science
and Political Thought; Political Sociology;
Psychoanalysis and Political Thought; Tocqueville,
Alexis de; Twentieth-Century Political Thought
Further Readings
Almond, Gabriel A., and Sidney Verba. 1963. The Civic
Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five
Nations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Elazar, Daniel J. 1994. The American Mosaic: The Impact
of Space, Time and Culture on American Politics.
Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Inglehart, Ronald. 1990. Culture Shift in Advanced
Industrial Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Kroeber, A. L., and Clyde Kluckholm. 1952. Culture: A
Critical Review of Conceptions and Definitions.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Putnam, Robert A. (with Robert Leonardi and Raffaella Y.
Nanetti). 1993. Making Democracy Work: Civic
Copyright © 2013 SAGE Publications. Not for sale, reproduction, or distribution.
626 Political Philosophy and Political Thought
Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.
——— . 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival
of American Community. New York: Simon &
Swedlow, Brendon. 2011. “Editor’s Introduction: Cultural
Theory’s Contributions to Political Science.” PS:
Political Science & Politics 44 (4): 703–10.
Thompson, Michael, Richard Ellis, and Aaron
Wildavsky. 1990. Cultural Theory. Boulder, CO:
Westview Press.
Wildavsky, Aaron. 1998. Culture and Social Theory. Edited
by Sun-Ki Chai and Brendon Swedlow. New Brunswick,
NJ: Transaction Books.
——— . 2006. Cultural Analysis: Politics, Public Law, &
Administration. Edited by Brendon Swedlow. New
Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.
Political philosophy is parasitic upon political prac-
tice. The two, not identical, must be taken together.
The most systematic of ancient philosophers charac-
terized politics (knowledge of right conduct) as “the
master science” (Aristotle, Politics ). Such in esse is
political philosophy, to which issues of public policy
are central.
Political philosophy is given various names but has
four key aspects:
1. sustained reflection on sociopolitical policy and
2. emphasis on propositions of a general or
universal type, and only particular where
instantiating general or universal claims;
3. subordinate concern with descriptive or
analytical generals and universals; and
4. predominant concern, not always express, with
identifying the right and the good.
The fourth aspect (the evaluative, prescriptive, nor-
mative, ethical) is the subject’s cutting edge. Dazzling
teeth, however, devoid of gums and bone, don’t
bite. The saw of evaluation, prized from the haft of
relevant facts and (especially) logic, cannot cut.
Propositions may be reduced to four basic types:
1. evaluative,
2. analytical,
3. empirical, and
4. aesthetic.
Various words pointing in slightly different direc-
tions are used to refer to these four types, but this
entry does not address these variations. Basic disci-
plines can be classified, in part, with regard to the
signal type of proposition each privileges. Leaving
aesthetics aside, the cutting edge of political philoso-
phy is evaluative (prescriptive, normative); that of
physics is empirical (factual, descriptive); and that of
mathematics is analytical (formal, logical).
While this classification of propositions helps
to locate points of disciplinary divergence, “diver-
gence” does not equal “mutual exclusion.” In the
widely used expression normative political phi-
losophy, the adjective, normative, implies only that
political philosophy is distinctively evaluative, not
that evaluation operates alone, on its own.
A political philosophy that is reasonably ambi-
tious will be driven by an ethic, but bound up with
an epistemology (“logic of discovery”) and an ontol-
ogy (understanding of being, or the world). The
questions regarding right action in the world—logi-
cal procedures for apprehending the world, together
with some grasp of the world as it is—are all tightly
Values, Facts, and Logic
Given that evaluation, description, and analysis are
all caught up in political philosophy, three match-
ing considerations apply. First, political philosophy,
with its normative edge, is not independent of facts
and logic, but combines the three types of proposi-
tion such that priority is accorded to norms. Second,
physics and other descriptive studies again combine
with evaluation and analysis, priority in this case
being accorded to facts. Third, mathematics and
similar computational (formal) disciplines recur to
the same triad, analysis here forming its apex.
All spheres of understanding are to be presumed
fundamentally connected, each new discipline branch-
ing from a single tree. The pervasive triadic distinction
between norms, logic, and facts may not be read off as
promoting empirical, to the exclusion of normative,
Copyright © 2013 SAGE Publications. Not for sale, reproduction, or distribution.
... Synthesizing critique with solidarity (Eagleton, 2016), political cultures represent attitudes, beliefs, and meanings that attempt to give order to political processes, and determine what is possible within politics by legitimizing and delegitimizing different political formations (Swedlow, 2013). When liberatory political cultures are made manifest, they usually take on temporary formations (e.g., the global Occupy demonstrations; Hong Kong's so-called Umbrella Movement; student-led Fallism in South Africa) and in this respect typically find form in politically charged moments, rather than sustainable and organized movements. ...
... Indeed, political scientists have, for the most part, concerned themselves with examining homogenously conceived political cultures (e.g., North American vs. British political culture; moralistic political culture; collectivist political culture; see Swedlow, 2013). It is therefore by affording people opportunities to map radical political culture (an undeniably contested cartography) to and for organized political formations-which may take the form of party politics or political movements-that those working from liberation psychologies of culture are able to enrich conceptions of base communities. ...
In conceptualizing culture as a kind of adjunctive that is to be conquered, managed, and/or comprehensively outlined, psychologists have, for the most part, done little to harness culture’s emancipatory capacities. In this article, I attempt to delineate how we might begin to articulate psychologies that are able to activate radical, collective, and materialist conceptions of, and approaches to, culture. Psychologies of this kind, referred to here as liberation psychologies of culture, lie at an intersection of critical culture studies, psychologies of culture, and liberation psychology. Three pathways through which to enact liberation psychologies of culture are developed, namely, cultural re-membering, cross-cultural anamnesis, and radical political culture. Read together, these pathways provide us with nascent, politicized, and reflexive ways by which to unlock, reprogram, dismiss, resist, contest, recover, interrogate, redeem, and coconstruct issues of culture within broader struggles for psycho-social liberation.
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