Open Access (electronic)
Repository: Universidade de Lisboa: repositório.UL
Political culture refers to the values and political conduct of individual or collective agents. As a concept it is as old as the analysis of politics itself. Aristotle wrote about a “state of mind” that could inspire either political change or stability; Machiavelli stressed the role of the values and feelings of identity and commitment; Burke praised the “cake of custom” that enabled political institutions to fulfil their aims; Tocqueville emphasized moeurs as the key determinants of the character of a particular society. But the contemporary understanding of political culture has been uniquely influenced by Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba’s classic behaviorist formulation in the Civic Culture (1963), leading up to today’s multicausal, relational, and mixed methods approaches to the study of the concept (Thompson, Ellis, & Wildavsky, 1990). As a result of this methodological diversity, political culture has ceased to be narrowly identified with the attitudes toward government of political agents, to be measured in the aggregate and then compared across political systems, or even more broadly conceived as a process in which political meaning is constructed in the interplay between the attitudes of individual citizens and the language and symbolic systems in which they are embedded. Contemporary analysis of political culture is a broad church, taking in everything from data collection on political opinions, attitudes, and values conducted by means of structured interviews with representative samples of citizens (e.g., Inglehart, 1997), to interpretive approaches that use a range of qualitative methods to clarify how political identities are generated, or how symbols and rhetoric can generate compliance or conflict, to discussions of why some ethnic identities become radicalized and others do not. The field has become so broad, that it is hard to pinpoint what is political culture and what is not.