Political culture

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Political culture is a political science , sociological and historical technical term used to describe the distribution of all cognitive, emotional and judgmental (evaluative) attitudes towards political issues, in particular attitudes towards the general order, the organization of the political system in a society and one's own role in the system .

The political culture of a state or of parts of its population can take various forms. For example, if the majority prefers a democratic political order, the political culture can be described as “democratic”, whereby several forms of democratic political culture are conceivable. If the political culture and political order of a state differ significantly over the long term, this can lead to serious legitimation problems for the state and thus to its destabilization. There are also effects on the integration , participation and political involvement of the members of society.

Concept history

The term political culture comes from the United States and is generally considered a non-judgmental term in scientific research. In common parlance in Germany, however, there is often a merely positive use of the term for a stylish and moral approach to political power , which is either approved or denied. This use of the term in linguistic usage and in the press must be distinguished from the analytical, scientific definition of the term.

Research approaches of political cultural research

Political cultural research developed out of the broad field of attitudes research and deals with the connections between social value and norm systems (culture) on the one hand and institutional conditions (structure) on the other. The research questions focus on the consistency or deviation of culture and structure and their influence on the stability of political systems.

The “Civic Culture” study

For the first time led Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba the notion of political culture in politics research. In the 1950s they tried to answer the question of why some young democracies fell apart shortly before the Second World War , but why other systems with the same institutional design and socio-economic level of development were able to establish themselves in the long term. An international study should prove Almond and Verba's fundamental assumption that a certain congruence between political culture and political system is necessary for the existence of a political system. The scholars define political culture as follows:

"The political culture of a nation is the particular distribution of patterns of orientation toward political objects among the members of the nation."

- Gabriel Almond / Sidney Verba

Almond and Verba claim that citizens' attitudes can generally be divided into four target areas in relation to the political system .

  1. The first point of reference is the self-perception of the individual citizen within the political system (ego). It reflects political knowledge or interest.
  2. The second target area represents the general attitudes towards the structure and structure of the political system.
  3. The first two areas are supplemented by attitudes towards the input possibilities of the political system (assessment of the citizens' opportunities for participation) and
  4. through attitudes towards the output capabilities of the political system (evaluation of the results of the policy).

The areas shown are called attitude objects (the self, the general system, input possibilities and output possibilities). Citizens' attitudes towards these objects can be expressed in different ways. For example, they can be based on knowledge (cognitive), appear as feelings (affective) or in the form of evaluations (evaluative).

The result of the collective query of these orientations including statistical evaluation leads the two scientists to the formation of three ideal-typical cultures:

Objects of orientation Structure and structure of the system Input possibilities Output skills Self-awareness
parochial culture - - - -
Subject culture + - + -
participatory culture + + + +

+ means the predominant presence of this orientation in the population, - means the predominant lack of this orientation in the population.

The ideal type of a premodern parochial political culture (“parish” denotes the “official district of a pastor”) is characterized by the mutual “non-interference” of the state and citizens. Citizens are not interested in political action and have no expectations of the political system. Political scientists saw Mexico and Italy as an example of a parochial political culture. In Germany they found a subject culture. This is also characterized by the fact that the citizens see themselves as largely apolitical, but in this form of political culture, political events are followed and evaluated by the citizens as positive or negative. In the third form of political culture, the participatory culture, the citizens follow the political process and are also politically active and participate. With the publication of their study in 1963, Almond / Verba clearly advocated a mixed political culture of parochial , participatory and subject elements as the ideal type . The political culture of the USA and Great Britain should be viewed as a model. A follow-up study by Almond and Verba in 1980 revealed surprising changes in the political cultures of the countries. While Great Britain was only categorized as a participatory culture with great restrictions, both Germany and Italy had changed a great deal in the direction of participatory culture. This follow-up study shows the changeability of political culture over time. Based on this terminology, the concept of political culture was further developed by Seymour M. Lipset and David Easton . In the German-speaking area, the concepts of Dieter Fuchs should be mentioned. In particular, the concept of political support for David Easton received a lot of attention.

David Easton - Concept of Political Support

David Easton contributed significantly to the further development of the concepts of political cultural research by elaborating in more detail the objects of political attitudes and the relationship between the state and citizens (which he described as political support). Easton differentiated between diffuse and specific support, which can relate to the three objects of political community, political regime and political leadership. While specific support arises from the satisfaction of the political output and the evaluation of concrete events or people and can change within a short period of time, diffuse support tends to feed on a general satisfaction with the political system (e.g. democracy) itself and only changes slowly over time. Since diffuse support is also associated with legitimacy and trust, this distinction makes it possible to explain the continued stability of political systems, even if the population is dissatisfied with specific political outputs.

Seymour Martin Lipset - Effectiveness and Legitimacy

With his classification for political systems, Seymour Martin Lipset occupies an important place in political cultural research geared towards transformation. In his concept for political cultural research, Lipset only differentiates between the assessment of the effectiveness of a political system and its legitimacy among the citizens. The stability of the political system is also of central importance in Lipset's considerations. The stability of a system increases the more positively the effectiveness and legitimacy of the political system are assessed by the population. The assessment of effectiveness consists of assessing the economy and dealing with political issues such as B. corruption or political scandals together and, according to Lipset, has a little less influence on stability than the assessment of legitimacy, which can be expressed in the population's approval of the general political system, despite short-term crises. The central point of Lipset's considerations is reflected in the interplay of legitimacy and influence, with the help of which he develops a typology that can provide information about the likely stability of a political system.

Karl Rohe

The only quantitative character of the Civic Culture study has often been criticized. Karl Rohe , on the other hand, introduced a concept of political culture that takes more qualitative considerations into account. In doing so, he does not give up the approaches of classical political cultural research, but complements them by dividing them into a culture of interpretation and a culture of symbols. This means that symbolic representations, such as memorials or flags, have an independent meaning in the concept of political cultural research. However, since there is no fundamental book that concentrates and details Karl Rohe's conception, studies in this direction remain within a narrow framework. Problems with the empirical implementation of the concept also contributed to this.

Political culture of the European Union

Although much of political cultural research focuses on the political culture of individual nation states, attempts have also been made to determine the political culture of the European Union. Using various indicators such as For example, the general attitude towards democracy, satisfaction with democracy, political trust and participation in politics, the political culture of the member states was analyzed and used as the basis for describing the political culture of the EU. According to Gabriel, the political culture of the EU can best be characterized by the motto “Unity in Diversity”. In this sense, the support of democracy as a political system as a common feature of European political culture forms the framework in which the diverse forms and differences of the EU countries with regard to satisfaction with democracy, political trust and political interest find their place.


The concept of political culture is primarily a macro-concept that uses aggregated individual data (from surveys) and thus includes the micro-level as a database. Political cultural research , which is a sub-area of ​​political science , deals with political culture . It is widely used in comparative politics . Especially in the context of the cultural turn and the transformation processes in Eastern Europe, it was able to record a significant increase in importance.


  • Gabriel Almond, Sidney Verba: The Civic Culture. Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton 1963 a. ö. ISBN 0-8039-3558-7 .
  • Gabriel Almond, Sidney Verba: The Civic Culture Revisited. Boston / Toronto 1980 a. ö., ISBN 0-8039-3560-9 .
  • Samuel H. Barnes, Max Kaase: Political Action - Mass Participation in Five Western Democracies. Beverly Hills / London 1979.
  • Wolfgang Bergem: Tradition and Transformation. A comparative study of political culture in Germany. With a foreword by Kurt Sontheimer. Opladen 1993, ISBN 3-531-12495-1 .
  • Gotthard Breit (Hrsg.): Political culture in Germany. An introduction. Zeitbild, Schwalbach 2004, ISBN 3-89974-078-5
  • Dieter Fuchs: The Political Culture Paradigm. In: Russel J. Dalton, Hans Dieter Klingemann (Eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior. Oxford 2007
  • Gottfried Fischborn : Political Culture and Theatricality. Articles, essays, journalism , Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main 2012, ISBN 978-3-631-63251-2
  • Oscar W. Gabriel : Political culture from the perspective of empirical social research. In: Oskar Niedermayer , Klaus von Beyme (ed.): Political culture in East and West Germany. Berlin 1994.
  • Brigitte Geißel, Virginia Penrose: Dynamics of Political Participation and Participation Research - Political Participation of Women and Men. In: gender / politics. online , 2003
  • Dieter Gosewinkel, Gunnar Folke Schuppert (ed.): Political culture in the change of statehood. In: WZB yearbook 2007. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin , Edition Sigma , Berlin 2008.
  • Martin Greiffenhagen , Sylvia Greiffenhagen (eds.); Katja Neller (Red.): Concise dictionary on the political culture of the Federal Republic of Germany. 2nd Edition. Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 3-531-13209-1 .
  • Gert Pickel : Youth and disenchantment with politics. Two cultures in Germany after unification. Opladen 2002. (Political culture in the new democracies of Europe, 2)
  • Susanne Pickel , Gert Pickel: Political Culture and Democracy Research. Basic concepts, theories, methods. An introduction. Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-8100-3355-3 .
  • Gert Pickel, Detlef Pollack , Olaf Müller, Jörg Jacobs: Eastern Europe's population on the way to democracy. Representative studies in Eastern Germany and ten Eastern European transition states. Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-8100-3615-3 . (Political culture in the new democracies of Europe, 1)
  • Detlef Pollack, Jörg Jacobs, Olaf Müller, Gert Pickel: Political Culture in Post-Communist Europe. Attitudes in New Democracies. Aldershot 2003
  • Karl Rohe: Political Culture - To Understand a Theoretical Concept. In: Oskar Niedermayer , Klaus von Beyme (ed.): Political culture in East and West Germany. Berlin 1994
  • Samuel Salzborn (Hrsg.): Political cultural research: Research status and research perspectives. Frankfurt 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-58019-6 .
  • Kurt Sontheimer: Germany's political culture. Munich 1990, ISBN 3-492-11289-7 .
  • Kurt Sontheimer : Germany was never like this: Comments on the political culture of the Federal Republic. Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-44669-8 .
  • Bettina Westle , Oscar W. Gabriel (ed.): Political culture. An introduction . Baden-Baden 2009, ISBN 978-3-8329-3539-9
  • Hans Vorländer : USA - The political culture. in Peter Lösche , Ed .: Country Report USA. History, politics, economy, society, culture. Federal Agency for Civic Education BpB, 5th neub. Aufl. Bonn 2008 ISBN 9783893318513 ISSN  0046-9408 pp. 196-236

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Political culture. Article in: Uwe Andersen / Wichard Woyke (Hrsg.): Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 5th updated edition, Opladen: Leske + Budrich, Opladen: 2003. Licensed edition Bonn: Federal Agency for Political Education 2003.
  2. cf. Almond, Gabriel / Verba, Sidney: The Civic Culture. Boston 1963. pp. 14f.
  3. ^ Entry "Parochie, die". In: Duden. Retrieved August 1, 2018 .
  4. Susanne Pickel, Gerd Pickel: Political Culture and Democracy Research: Basic Concepts, Theories, Methods. An introduction. Ed .: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Springer-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 978-3-531-90021-6 , pp. 73-74 , doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-531-90021-6_3 .
  5. Susanne Pickel, Gerd Pickel: Political Culture and Democracy Research: Basic Concepts, Theories, Methods. An introduction. Ed .: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Springer-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, p.79 .
  6. Susanne Pickel, Gerd Pickel: Political Culture and Democracy Research: Basic Concepts, Theories, Methods. An introduction. Ed .: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Springer-Verlag, Wiesbaden, p.99 .
  7. ^ Oscar Gabriel: Political attitudes and political culture . In: The EU countries in comparison . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-531-42282-4 , p. 210 , doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-531-91075-8_7 ( springer.com ).