Political Culture: First Step to Democracy


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Realised by: Mourad Hasbaoui

Associate Political Science Researcher

The definition of political culture:

A political culture can be defined as a set of beliefs and values hold by a person that shapes his/her political behavior. It includes political opinions, values and ideas about what a good society should be like. A political culture is reflection of political system, but it also consists of parts of history and tradition of any given government.it is vital to have political culture and study it because it shapes the population’s political perception and actions. Governments can help shape political culture and public opinion through education, and public events…etc.

Political cultures vary eminently from country to another and sometimes even within the same country. For example The United States and Great Britain are both leading democracies in the world; however each has a strong different political culture. The American government derives its power and legitimacy from a written constitution drafted in 1789 by the Founding Fathers who feared monarchs and strong government, which is why they divided the Federal government into three distinct branches(Legislative, Executive and Judiciary ). The United States takes great pride in it is separation of powers, known also as “checks and balance”. Yet, Great Britain has a very long history of monarchy and has never had a written constitution. Despite of the fact Queen Elizabeth II holds the official title head of state; her powers are limited and symbolic. The Prime Minister is the dominant figure in the government and he is in charge to form a cabinet.

The three types of  political culture:

The term of political culture or civic culture was first mentioned in Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba’s book entitled “The Civic Culture “in 1963[1]. In this book they both included the result of their pioneering study in five different countries in 1959 and 1960. Both political scientists did interview 1000 people each in five countries to measure capital political opinions. As result of this study, Almond and Verba discerned three types of political culture: Participant, Subject and Parochial.


In this category people really understand that they are citizens and focus on politics. They are proud of their political system. They are ready and excited to discuss any domestic or foreign issues. They believe that their participation to the political process can influence the outcome of elections. They have a high degree of political competence (knowing how to accomplish something politically) and political efficacy (feeling that a person has a least little of political input).People with Participant political culture believe that everybody should exercises their rights to vote and get involved in politics. In addition, they are very active in their communities and nonprofit organizations. The Participant political culture is undoubtedly the perfect soil for democracy.


It is less democratic than the previous category. The Subject political culture was predominant at that time of the survey back in West Germany (during the Cold War). People fully understand that they are citizens and pay attention to politics, but they do it passively. They can follow the news but they are not proud of their country’s political system and feel less emotional commitment towards it. Their sense of political competence and efficacy is relatively low. They have no interest to join an organization or a group like Lobbies or interest groups. They may vote, but with no pride, patriotism and enthusiasm. Democracy has more obstacles sinking roots in a culture where people are used to think of themselves as obedient subjects rather than participants.


It is considered less democratic. In this third category of political cultures, lots of people do not care about their citizenship and their duties towards their homeland. They take no pride in their nations. They expect nothing from nothing from government and lost a confidence in the political system. Their knowledge and political educations are so limited. They have no sense of political participation and feel powerless. It is extremely hard to grow democracy or even discuss the concept of democracy in a parochial culture.it dies require not only new democratic institution but also new sense and understand of citizenship.


Each modern society imparts norms and values to its people, who have distinct ideas about how the political system is supposed to work and about the government. These beliefs, symbols and norms about the political system are the core values of the political culture of any given nation. The question that should be asked is:

What is your political culture; is it Participant, Subject, or Parochial?


Reference :

Almond ,Gabriel, and Verba Sidney. “The Civic Culture”.1963.Print. January 10th, 2015.

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