Thursday, July 19, 2012

Political Culture/Socialization

Political culture refers to “people’s psychological orientation, being the pattern of orientations to political objects such as parties, government, and constitution, expressed in beliefs, symbols and values”.[1] It builds upon the studies of political behavior which focuses on individuals rather than larger political units.[2] It wishes to look at participants in the political system as individuals who have the emotions, prejudices and predispositions.[3] Behavioralism has eight intellectual foundation stones:[4] 1) Regularities (assumes that there are “discoverable uniformities”); 2) Commitment to Verification - The ability to verify ones generalizations, testability by reference to relevant behavior; 3) Techniques – Be more self-conscious and critical about its methodology; 4) Quantification (Results to be expressed in numbers where possible); 5) Values – separating facts from values; 6) Systemization – Theory and research as closely intertwined; 7) Pure Science (theory and applied research combined ) and 8) Integration (interdisciplinary character).

Political socialization is the developmental process through which persons acquire political orientations and patterns of behaviour.[5]  It is the process of transmitting the central values of society’s political culture from one generation to another. Studying political socialization does “not only gives us insight into the pattern of political culture and subcultures in [a] society, but also locates for us in the socialization processes of the society the point where particular qualities and elements are being sustained or modified.”[6]

The pioneering work of Almond and Verba (Civil Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations, 1963) reveals that democratic stability is characterized by a blend of activity and passivity on the part of citizens and a balance between obligation and performance on the part of state leaders. They identified three major types of political culture: 1) parochial (i.e. Mexico and Italy) “where citizens are only remotely aware of the presence of central government, and live their lives near enough regardless of the decisions taken by the state.”;2) subject (i.e. Germany) “where citizens are aware of central government, and are heavily subjected to its decisions with little scope for dissent” and 3) participant (i.e. UK and US) where “citizens are able to influence the government in various ways and they are affected by it.”  A similar study of O.D. Corpuz[7] reveals the historical and cultural foundations of Philippine politics. The author writes argues that Filipino political institutions are not merely “adulterated versions” of alien institutions. Irregularities in the system manifest because Filipinos have a superstructure of Western-inspired values sitting on top indigenous infra-structure.


[1] Heywood, A. 2007. Politics (3rd ed). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 207
[2] Robert A. Dahl, "The Behavioral Approach in Political Science:  Epitaph for a Monument to a Successful Pro- test," American Political Science Review, 55 (December 1961): 763-772.
[3] David  Easton,. "The Current Meaning of  Behavioralism," in Charlesworth, ed.,   Contemporary Political Analysis, pp. 11-31.
[4] David  Easton,. "The Current Meaning of  Behavioralism," in Charlesworth, ed.,   Contemporary Political Analysis, pp. 16-17.
[5] Easton, David. 1968. The Theoretical Relevance of Political Socialization.  Canadian Journal of Political Science 1 (2):125-146.
[6] Almond, Gabriel A. 1960. “A Functional Approach to Comparative Politics,” in Gabriel A. Almond and James S. Coleman (eds.), The Politics of Developing Areas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.pp. 31.
[7] Onofre D. Corpuz, "The Cultural Foundations of Filipino Politics," Philippine   Journal   of  Public Administration, 4 (October 1960): 297-310.

On Political Elites


Elite refers to a minority of individuals who have the most of what (power, wealth, status, etc.) there is to have or who get the most of what there is to get in society.  They have the highest indices (of success) in their branch of activity and they directly or indirectly play some considerable part in government.  Normative elitism contends that elite rule is desirable and that political power should be vested in the hands of a wise or enlightened minority (Heywood 2007:84). The classical philosophers (i.e. Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli) attempted to answer the question: Who is fit to rule? The major assumption of political leadership is that not everybody can rule. Leadership is reserved for those who possess certain qualities which distinguish them from ordinary people.  

Classical elite studies claim to be empirical (although normative judgments intrude) and sees elite rule as an inevitable, and unchangeable fact of social existence (Heywood 2007:85). For Mosca (1939), there are only two types of people in society—the rulers and the ruled. The organizational nature of the elites makes them the most convenient rulers of the society. In the same manner, Pareto (1968) considered the elites are the appropriate rulers because they have the skills and expertise. Using the German Social Democrat Party as a case study, Robert Michels (1949) introduced the “iron law of oligarchy” to explain the elitist/oligarchical tendencies of all socio-political organizations. Direct/participatory democracy although noble is physically and technically impossible.   

Modern elitist perspectives developed as empirical analyses but are more critical and discriminating about the causes of elite rule. Mills’s The Power Elite (1956) contends that elite power is subject to historical variations. There are three major keys in understanding the group: 1) psychological/social similarity; 2) structural coincidences (relationship with social institutions); and 3) explicit coordination (strategies for unity). An empirical study by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), The Rulemakers (2004), reveals the aforementioned characteristics of elites. The work shows how Philippine legislators  cannot live up to their title as “representatives of the people” given their economic status and political prestige.

For Guttsman[1], one of the shortcomings of elite theories is that they consider the ruling political group as belonging to the top group of society There is a little systematic study of the changing political elites within the framework of a changing social structure.. Also, no one can generalize the attitudes of elites vis-à-vis democracy.[2] It means they can also provide and espouse democratic values/ethos (democratic elitism). Schumpeter’s “realistic” model of democracy[3] argues that political power shall always be exercised by the elites (inter-elite rivalry). This is supported by Anthony Down’s idea of “competitive elitism”[4] which explains the entrepreneurial tendencies of politicians due to the need to satisfy the demands of political market wherein the electorate behave as consumers.


[1] W.L.Guttsman,"Social Stratification and  Political Elite,”  British Journal of   Sociology, 11  (June 1960)137-150.
[2] Frank Bealey, “Democratic Elitism and the Autonomy of Elites,” International Political Science Review, Vol 17, No. 3 (July 1996), p. 319-331.
[3] Schumpeter, Joseph. 1942. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: Allen and Win.
[4] Downs, Anthony. 1990. An Economic Theory of  Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.

State and Globalization

The “state” is one of the most important and enduring concepts in the study of politics. Its philosophic and historical conception can be traced to the writings of Plato (arising out of man’s lack of self-sufficiency), Aristotle (state for  political animals), St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas (state as a divine institution), Machiavelli (state as  instrument of  power), and Hobbes, Locke and Rosseau (state and social contract). It was defined and redefined alongside the development of political science as an area of inquiry. In the early part of 20th century, the “Germanization” of the discipline popularized the Weberian notion of the state as an entity exercising a monopoly of “coercive authority” (violence) over a given territory which must be anchored on the process of legitimation. The modern state has been accorded with four key features: a defined territory, a permanent population, an effective government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states (internal and external sovereignty). 

Post-war political science witnessed the rejection of the concept of the state as a theoretical concept. Peter Bentley argued that is too ideological to be used as an organizing concept. Meanwhile, Michael Mann (Autonomous Power of the State) wrote that the state is withering away in the face of political authority, political administration and society. In 1950s, behavioralists like David Easton (The Political System, 1953) and Gabriel Almond (Politics of Developing Areas, 1960) replaced the state with the concept of “system” saying that the former is imbued with many meanings and cannot be operationalized. For Nettl[1], since the state is a product of continental European political science, it is not applicable to the study of other countries.

Despite the hyperglobalists’s declaration of the decline, erosion and “end of the nation-state”[2] due to forces of global capitalism[3], the state remains the significant, if not the primary, actor in international relations. It is being enhanced and reinforced due to the process of internationalization which requires the acquiescence of the states.[4] For skeptics, globalization has been used as an “ideological device by politicians and theorists who wish to advance a market-orientated economic agenda”.[5] Occupying the middle ground, the ‘transformationalists” argue that globalization has indeed transformed some of the  functions of the state (in its Westphalian sense) but not everything, especially as the final arbiter and negotiator in international treaties/relations.[6]


[1] Nettl, J.P. 1949. "The State as a Conceptual Variable," World Politics, 20 (July 1949): 559-592.
[2] Ohmae, K. (1990) The Borderless World: Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy. London: Fontana.; Ohmae, K. (1995) The End of the Nation-State: The Rise of Regional Economies. New York: Free Press.
[3] Strange, S. (1996) The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[4] Hirst, P. and G. Thompson (1999) Globalization in Question. Cambridge: Polity Press.
[5] Heywood, A. 2011. Global Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
[6] Held, D., A.McGrew, D. Goldblatt and J. Perraton (1999) Global Transformations. Cambridge:Polity Press.

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