For several years now, the link between culture and politics has drawn scholarly attention. More emphasis has been placed on the relationship between democracy and civil culture. This link has been studied by several scholars the first ones being Sydney Verba and Gabriel Almond. They came up with a conclusion that civil culture is the determinant of a successful society (Swindler 1986). Examination of the civil culture’s role in shaping democracy has been done in so many nations. Research has concluded that democracy is likely to be developed and sustained in nations, which have civil culture (Laitin 1988, p. 254). In situations where the majority of citizens are civil, the government is more effective as well as making sure that all people’s needs are met in time and in a professional manner (Almond & Verba 1963).
According to Putman, civil culture has grown tremendously in Italy and this has led to good governance. When it comes to the development, regions with many people being civil are ahead compared to regions where civil culture has not taken roots (Putnam 1995). The findings of Putman are essential. Apart from acting as a tool for fostering economic development, civil culture also influences the way the government performs. Putman’s findings indicate that civil culture gives rise to democracy. The regional government of Italy is democratic according to Putman (Putnam 1995). According to him, there is effective government in regions, which are civil. Several other studies are exploring the same issue. Like Italy, the state of the USA is democratic.
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Currently, the pattern of political participation is changing. This is shown by the low turnout of people engaged in national elections (Berman 2001). Apart from voting, the turnout of the Americans in public meetings has been seen by a recent study to be declining. In short, participation of the Americans in political matters has fallen steadily and this tread is likely to continue (Wedeen 1994). This is despite the improvement of education regarding participation of citizens in elections. People have kept away from community affairs for years. There has also been a decline in the number of Americans who engage in politics as well as in the government. This perhaps has been attributed to political tragedies such as assassinations witnessed previously. This might have motivated them to keep off politics (Wildavsky 1987).
There has been a decline of labor union membership among the Americans (Putnam 1995). Labor union is an important tool in ensuring good governance. Unlike the situation in the 1950s when these unions were very active, labor unions have recently been seen to register very few members. Another form of civil engagement that is declining is parent-teachers association.Currently, participation in parent-teacher associations stands at 7 million (Swindler 1986). This is a significant drop from 12 million in 1964. Civil societies such as scout movement have also witnessed a decline in the number of members in the last few years. There has however been a rise of the Americans engaging themselves in new form of networks. A number has been seen to be involved in bowling while others have registered in new organizations. These new membership has a vital role in the politics of the day (Berman 2001).
There have been differing answers from scholars regarding the question when the culture becomes civil. However, there is an agreement on the characteristics of civil culture. According to Putman, civil culture can be categorized into political equality, civil engagement, social structure of cooperation and solidarity, trust and tolerance (Huntington 1996). Culture plays a direct role in the development of political patterns in the country. Several studies have been done on the relationship between culture and political patterns. Civil engagement’s norms as well as networks influence political patterns by affecting their performance. As a part of civil culture, civil engagement occurs when citizens take part in affairs, which are meant to benefit them as well as in activities aimed at the promotion of the public good (Putnam 1995).
In many studies, there is a common conclusion that the quality of any government is influenced by civil engagement in longstanding traditions (Almond & Verba 1963). For a long time, civil engagement has been involved in making the governance better. When the society has a strong civil engagement, its governance is likely to be better compared to a society where the social engagement is weak (Widavsky 1987). It is the culture of these civil engagements that influence governance. For the purpose of this study, culture refers to the beliefs of people and what they feel about the government as well their thoughts as to how people should think about the government (Putnam 1995). Civil engagement has also been associated with a better society. This has led to better schools and development of better roads among others. In social engagement, citizens are focused on meeting the needs of every member as opposed to self-interests. There is however a common belief among many citizens that self-interests cannot be separated from the civil ones (Laitin 1988).
There can never be democratic values without a civil engagement culture (Weeden 1994). In developed countries, corruption rates have greatly reduced. This has greatly been contributed to by the civil engagement. Civil societies have been involved in calling for a just community and this has greatly influenced political patterns of any nation (Swindler 2006). There have been cases when political leaders have been forced to step down owing to the pressure from civil society engagement. A good example is corruption allegation when the leader is asked to step down to allow an investigation to be done. Civil society has been in the forefront as far as the fight against social vices is concerned. In the case of corruption, civil engagement, which represents people of a particular nation, uses pressure to force corrupt individuals out of the office (Berman 2001). This is a good gesture as it aims at making the society better. The group acts on behalf of people to negotiate with the government for good leadership.
Culture determines which political patterns can dominate in a certain region. It is good however to distinguish between civil engagement aimed at bringing positive change and the one that makes things worse (Laitin 1988). By this, there is a need to understand what factions are. Factions refer to groups of people united by a common interest or passion. The group’s interest is central to that of other community members. Factions can either be composed of the majority of the population or just a small proportion of the population (Wedeen 1994). Individuals confuse factions with civil engagement. It is however important to understand that factions serve the interests of individuals standing behind its development. Such interests may be oppressive to the citizens (Putnan 1995).
Factions can influence government or legislative action for their own self-interest (Laitin 1988). Therefore, it comes to our attention that faction will only serve the interests of people who started it. Its structure as well as functioning is the same as that of civil society (Swindler 1986). In many developing countries, faction has taken root. There are several cases when a group of individuals has influenced the decision of the parliament as well as that of the government. There are reported cases when members of legislature as well as government officials have been influenced to make decisions regarding certain issues (Berman 2001). This is done by prominent individuals to serve the interests of these individuals. There is an exchange of money and this propagates corruption. These incidences have formed behind the back of many people in these nations. There are those who believe that they cannot get employment without corruption. Civil society has been involved in fighting against corruption and there has been a lot of success in this sphere. In America, for example, civil society has been the instrument of change. It acts by pressuring the government to act (Laitin 1988).
Culture also influences the type of political leaders to be elected and also the style of leadership they use (Putnam 1995). Each citizen in a culture, which is civil, is viewed as equal when it comes to politics. There is a common understanding among citizens that they are equal when it comes to obligations and rights. A civil culture provides an atmosphere of oneness and this has been witnessed in various states in the USA. Individuals are willing to offer help to each other (Almond & Verba 1963). Trust is also seen to exist in this culture.
According to a moralist subculture indicator of subcultures’ trichotomy, which was introduced by Daniel Elazar, a government is proved to be good if it is involved in the promotion of the public good (Laitin 1988). This can be measured by how selfless, honest as well as committed it is to the welfare of the public. This subculture has a similarity with civil culture (Wedeen 1994). On the other hand, in the individualistic subculture the government is seen to promote the interests of individuals as opposed to the society. A good society is not fostered while this subculture is in place. Civil culture has a great influence on the policy formulation by the government, which is aimed at meeting their most pressing needs (Huntington 1996). This culture is seen to influence the political pattern in an area as political leaders are only elected on the basis of their policies. They are also accountable for every promise they make as they are expected to deliver it. Civil culture is seen to be rich when it comes to innovation and creativity in the policy formulation (Berman 2001).
It is a common expectation that states whose population is civil are liberal politically, thus government initiatives that are aimed at helping the needy are favored (Wildavsky 1987). This however is not usually the case. Recent studies have shown that to some extent states, which have civil society, are conservative politically. Just like other societies that are civil, such individuals are seen to be concerned with their needs, but are not likely to ask for help from the government (Weeden 1994).
The culture of religion, more so in Africa, has a great influence on the political pattern (Laitin 1988). Current political structures in Africa are related to the gospel spread. According to recent studies, religion influences who is in power at a particular time. This is a common phenomenon in Africa. Political power struggle in Africa is often influenced by religious beliefs. In Nigeria, for example, both Christianity and Islam play a great role in the political rearrangement of the nation (Laitin 1988). Religion has been used as a tool of gaining legitimacy in these nations. In the north of Nigeria, witnessed political division is the result of differences between Christian and Islam religions. These differences stem back to the colonial era as the north was perceived by the British colony as belonging to the Muslims (Huntington 1996). Religion is seen to influence whosoever would occupy the political post. It determines the cultural elite that rule a certain area.
According to Laitin David, it is hard to undertake mobilization, for example, of voters in the cultural sub-system, which is considered to be counter-hegemonic (Laitin 1988). According to him, cultural framework is the determinant of the political stand of many politicians. Their competitors are seen as irrelevant and unable to march them. This hegemonic system can only be replaced through a political upheaval, which is complete (Berman 2001). There was the existence of tensions in Nigeria prior to the colonialism between the state, religion, and religious doctrine interpretation for political gains. This has been there for many centuries. The Islam religion has worked closely with political powers in Northern Nigeria. The influence of the Islam was felt in the North. Shayhk Uthman State establishment, which is an Islamic state, is a clear indication of how religion can influence political power (Laitin 1988). The political structure is seen to change with the introduction of Christianity. Christian South is seen to benefit from the services of the government. They were able to access education unlike the North that could not access these services as they were given politically. Christian missionaries were prohibited from going to the North. This is the reason why basic services were not accorded to the Islamic North. Today, there is a big gap in terms of education between individuals from the North and those from the South of the country (Laitin 1988). The North feels disadvantaged due to this. Most resources in the country are currently located in the South, leaving the North with little resources (Wildavsky 1987).
In the US, two forms of political culture are seen to exist. One is termed as individualism while the other is called egalitarian collectiveness (Almond & Verba 1963). In terms of equal opportunities, the egalitarian collectiveness is better. The culture of individualism favors minimum authority. Historically, severe restrictions were used by egalitarians against the government (Berman 2001). This occurred when they wanted their objectives to reach the government. Today, the government is viewed by them as an important avenue of ensuring increased opportunities. Without knowledge and historical facts, it is impossible to understand why cultures differ when it comes to policies (Putnam 1995). There will always be people who oppose to and those who propose certain government policies. Those who are opposed to policies, which are meant to benefit people, are said to hate change. Conservative culture is seen to be resistant to change.
There is a great difference between people who are opposed to authority and those who are not. A recent survey has showed that a large number of executives and general public (80%) give a high priority to the defense compared to a small number of environmentalists (47%) (Laitin 1988). Once there is an understanding of formal institutions, solution for many problems will be found. Institutions here mean formation of social practices as well as governing rules. Formal institutions are the rules created by the government (Huntington 1996). On the other hand, informal institutions operate alongside the government’s formal structures. Some cultures have been opposed to formal institutions, as it has been discussed earlier.
Democratic development meets opposition mainly from various cultures (Huntington 1996). Two cultures are compared by Huntington and they are the culture of Catholicism and that of Confucianism. According to Huntington, culture is both dynamic as well as complex. As the time goes, features of the culture, which are opposed to democracy, are superseded by those that support democracy (Huntington 1996). His view is that Catholicism is opposed to democracy. He also thinks that Confucianism is opposed to capitalism. However, both his views have beendisapproved.His other view is that there exists a huge gap between America and Asia as far as culture is concerned (Wedeen 1994). He presents a picture of incompatible cultures. His argument is that democracy can bring individuals who are opposed to the Western ideologies to power.
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