Political studies

Alternative Approaches to Political Culture

1. Ideology:

On the basis of the concept of ‘ideology’ many Marxist and neo-Marxist thinkers have thought about differently on the operations of politics. Marx and Engels regarded the dominant ideas of any historical epoch as an expression of the interests of the most powerful social groups. All political and cultural ideas are rooted in the prevailing power relationship. The class which controls economic life dispenses throughout society its attitudinal patterns and belief systems.

But it is understood in two ways:

(a) As false consciousness that masks ‘real interests’ of the bulk of society. Real interests lay in the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by communism; and,

(b) As expres­sions of material circumstances, such as, attitudes, beliefs, ideologies etc. rooted in the structure of production relations in any given society.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), while in prison, questioned why there had not been a successful communist revolutionary overthrow of a regime in the advanced capitalist countries?” He found the cause in the ability of advanced capitalist regimes to rule by consent rather than by coercion.

This was its intellectual and moral leadership rather than military and police repression. It was termed as hegemony used to describe the non-coercive aspects of domination, the diffusion throughout society of the value and knowledge systems of a ruling group.

Louis Althusser, the French structuralist Marxist thinker, elabo­rated it further.’ He highlighted the way in which hegemony actually worked. The state has two key components: repressive and ideological state apparatuses (ISAs). The former functions via coercion in the last instance while the latter work ideologically. The list of ISAs included Religion, Education, Family, Law, Politics, Trade Unions, Communica­tions and Culture.

The ideological supports of state power are deeply embedded in society. The ISAs may also operate as sites of resistance to the dominant knowledge and attitudinal patterns associated with capitalism. Robert Cox and Stephen Gill, both neo-Gramscians, have dealt with the power of knowledge and ideas in the global political economy. Its organising principles come from neo-liberalism which stands for the sanctity of free markets, avoidance of state intervention, free capital movement and efficient allocation of resources on a global scale.

2. Sub-political Cultures:

Many sub-political cultures co-exist within a political system. There is interaction among these sub-political cultures. Political system as a whole comes under this interaction. Sub-political culture stands for a particular identity of a societal group. Sub-political culture makes it a group of people that possesses a distinct and consistent set of attitudes, beliefs and orientations to political objects.

Sub-political cultures become irreconcilable, as in case of Ireland and Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. It may also rise like the Asian Tigers. But the European Union is showing the way to negotiation, mediation, reconciliation, and integration.

Dennis Kavanagh”’ gives four bases of these sub-political cultures:

(1) The elite versus mass culture;

(2) Cultural divisions within the elites;

(3) Generational subcultures; and,

(4) Social structure.

3. Political Identity:

The components of identity include a series of common assumptions, attitudes, dispositions and beliefs. The bound­aries between political identity and political culture are not very clear. However, ‘identity’ is endemic to the human condition. Calhoun says, ‘We know of no people without names, no languages or cultures in which some manner of distinctions between self and other, we and they are not made’. There are many possible bases for political identity and each person is made of multiple identities. Some identities seem to prevail over others.” There are many rationalist, constructivist and power approaches to identity.

4. World Culture:

There are many makers and developers of world culture: intergovernmental organisations, transnational corporations, states, and individuals. Individuals include scientists, policy advisors technical experts, organisational consultants, activists, and so on.’ Much of world culture is embedded in national and local structures to such as extent that it is simply taken for granted. State sovereignty is there.

Yet institutions like the ICC (International Criminal Court) transcends state sovereignty, relying on a principle of individual responsibility for one’s actions and the presumed capacity of individuals to follow their consciences in choosing good over evil. They are obliged to behave as world citizens.

Yet critics of neoliberalism, opponents of radical Islamism and defenders of national identity oppose this phenomenon. According to Lechner and Boli, ‘In the twenty-first century, world culture will be a fact of life. Its content will change; its influence may rise or decline. But in many respects, the world works the way it does because world culture has grown as it

5. World Cultures or Civilisations:

There are many world cultures or civilisations. All tend to clash. Huntington opines that the fundamental source of conflict is not primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating sources of conflict are cultural. Nation-states still remain the most powerful actors, but the principal conflicts of global politics would occur between nations and groups of different civilisations.

There is worldwide Islamic opposition to World Culture. World Culture, in fact, stands presently for Western Culture. But Islam considers itself to be the World Culture. As such, it opposes every other culture, civili­sation or ideology appearing as World Culture. In their revolt against the dominant world order, the Islamists aim to create a new kind of civilisation. Islam is a world religion. It is centred on the universal declaration of the freedom of man on the earth from every authority except God’s.

Its call to freedom may be confined by geographic or racial boundaries but is valid for all humanity. Most of the aggressive militants have increasingly focussed on the linchpin of world culture (the chief oppressor of Muslims): the United States of America or the “Great Satan”. The entire earth must be subject to the religion of Allah by all means.

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SAKHRI Mohamed

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