Political Culture Approach

Any political system is affected by the environment that surrounds it. In its turn, political culture plays an important part in determining the nature of this environment through the inputs emanating from the environment, and through the expectations of individuals and groups that make up society about the political system, and the demands that they place on the shoulders of this system.

Political culture is an important part of the environment in which political behavior takes place. Hence, advocates of approaching political culture aim at a clear and organized understanding of political behavior through the political culture of society.

The basic assumptions on which the approach is based:

Supporters of this approach proceed from the assumption that there is a relationship between political culture and political behavior, considering that political behavior is the product of political culture in the first place. Therefore, if the researcher wants to understand the political reality or political behavior in a society, then he must understand the political culture in that society.

Considering that the dominant political culture determines political behavior, the political culture has been seen as the independent variable that affects the political system or political behavior as a dependent variable, including what that means: That if there is a change in the political culture, then it will result in a change in political behavior.

Just as the social phenomenon has three dimensions: a social dimension, an economic dimension, and a political dimension, so the general culture of society has its dimensions as well. Then there is the social culture, the economic culture, and the political culture. That is, the latter is part of the general culture of society. It refers to the system of customs, traditions, beliefs and values ​​prevailing in a society towards the political system, according to which the forms of political debate are determined.

The political system is not innate, but acquired and cumulative, a variable that is not fixed through political upbringing. By doing so; Political culture is the product of political upbringing. Political upbringing is a process whereby values, ideas and beliefs are transferred from one generation to the next. A number of educational institutions do this, such as the family, the school, the media, and others.

Basic concepts of approaching political culture:

Political culture:

It is considered as the central concept on which the approach was named . Gabriel Almond brought this concept into the scope of political analysis in 1956 when he published a book entitled “Political Culture”.

Where Gabriel Almond defined political culture as: “the trends and attitudes of the vast majority of society members towards the political system in its faculties and parts, as well as the individual’s perception of his role in the political system”.

From this standpoint, the approach of political culture raises a number of questions: How do individuals view the political system as a whole in general?

What is their perception of the various components of the political system, both in terms of the role it plays and its ability to achieve this role?

How does the individual see his role in the political system? And to what extent does he think he should play a role and participate in political life?


Orientation refers to everything that is latent and buried in the human soul as a result of upbringing. The individual may or may not perceive it. Individuals ’attitudes affect their attitudes and then their behavior. If the individual grew up in a religious environment, for example, this creates a religious orientation, and thus his attitudes and behaviors are determined in this context.

Attitudes, then, are trends before they express themselves in a specific way, and trends are trends and have expressed themselves towards a specific position. Hence, they are closely related to each other. It is not surprising, then, that Almond defined political culture as the trends and trends towards the political system in general, or one of its parts, or the trends and trends towards the individual’s vision of his role in this system.

In the context of their development of approaching political culture, Almond and Sidney Verba are based on the studies of Talcott Parsons   and Edward Shils in the field of political sociology on the components of the three trends: perceptual, emotional and evaluative. The first is related to perception and understanding, the second is related to feelings, and the third is related to evaluation and selection.

In light of the studies of Talcott Parsons   and Edward Shils, Almond and Verba distinguished between three forms of political orientation as follows:

Perceptual orientation: This means knowledge about the political system, the roles assigned to it, and the occupants of these roles. As well as system inputs and outputs … etc.

Emotional orientation : This means the feelings of individuals towards the political system as a whole or any of its parts and components of hate and love.

Evaluative orientation: This refers to the judgments and opinions that individuals make about the political system, which are determined based on their perception and knowledge of the political system and their feelings about it.

Based on this, Almond and Verba distinguished between three ideal types of political tendencies:

1 – Shallow or narrow political orientations:
traditional societies prevail where there are no differentiated political roles, and where specialization does not exist, and the individual can perform more than one role or function, such as the tribal sheikh who plays the role of the project, the ruler, the judge and the military commander. Shallow political orientations are characterized by:
– The absence or weakness of individuals towards the political system based on the perception that the political system will not respond to their demands.
Hence, the individual’s low or no belief that he has a role in the system that he should play.

2- Attitudes of submission: It is characterized by:
– A high degree of individuals’ orientations towards the outputs of the political system, in recognition of the strong influences of the political system on their normal daily life.
A limited degree of individuals ’attitudes towards the inputs of the political system, aware of their limited ability to influence them.

3- Attitudes of participation: It is characterized by: – A high degree of attitudes towards the outputs of the political system.
– Also a high degree of attitudes towards the inputs of the political system, convincing individuals of their ability to influence them. Then individuals play an effective role, and their evaluation of the performance of the political system ranges from general acceptance to complete rejection of any of the system outcomes, and the following figure expresses these different types of trends towards the political system

Concluded Almond and Verba that any political culture on the ground practical is a mixture of the three types of political orientations and therefore distinguishes between political culture and another is that it includes the amount of each of these three types of orientations. It cannot be limited to one or two types of these trends, but rather it must include the three types of trends in one ratio or another. It is evident that the greater the participation tendencies in a society, the more politically advanced the society. And vice versa, the greater the proportion of shallow orientations, the more traditional the society.

From this standpoint, political development can be defined from the perspective of the approach of political culture as the transition from a situation dominated by narrow orientations and tendencies of submission to a situation dominated by attitudes of participation. The higher the participation trend, the higher the level of political development, and vice versa.

Concept of civic culture:

Both Almond and Verba studied political culture in five countries of varying political and historical experience, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Mexico. Almond and Verba concluded from their study to a model of an ideal political culture, which they called urban culture.

The civic culture of Almond and Verba – like any other political culture, that is, it is a mixture of the three types of political orientations, but it is dominated by attitudes of participation. According to Almond and Verba, this culture is closest to the successful and relatively stable democracies in the United States and Britain. This political culture seems perfectly appropriate – from their point of view – to democratic political systems, as it is based on a balance between government power with what it possesses without other than the legitimate use of tools of material oppression and the need for the government to respond to societal demands on the one hand and the balance between popular satisfaction and division on the other hand, He showed the citizen’s negativity and his ability to influence decision-makers from a third aspect.

Such a culture is achieved through the dialectical forces of change that push in the direction of the gradual decline in shallow trends and tendencies of submission in favor of a gradual increase in participation trends until it reaches a culture dominated by attitudes of participation to a large extent, where the vast majority of citizens are concerned not only with the outputs of the political system but also with its inputs due to For their faith to influence her.

It is evident from the previous figure that the political culture based on shallow orientations only or participation orientations only does not exist on the ground in practice. Hence, they represent two extremes of a recurring line upon which the political cultures of different societies are represented at one point or another between these two extremes.

It is not possible for a political culture to be based on attitudes of participation alone, because in such a case, the citizens have the right to influence all the inputs of the political process and reject any exit from its outputs, which does not distinguish between society and the government, which is impossible to achieve in practice.

But how can both shallow orientations and tendencies of submission be justified in a highly politically developed complex?

In fact, it is possible to justify the existence of shallow or narrow trends in developed societies on the basis that there are some matters that are difficult to make available to everyone about, such as those related to matters of war, and therefore the citizens do not discuss much about them, but rather give their full mandate in this regard to the ruling leadership. As for the justification of the tendencies of submission, it can be said that individuals and groups often accept certain governmental decisions despite their knowledge that they harm their interests based on their conviction that there are other decisions issued in their favor that may harm the interests of other individuals and groups at the same time.

Criticism of the approaching political culture:

The approach also failed to arrive at a mid-range empirical theory with reasonable and acceptable predictive capacity based on it, due to two reasons:

First: The perspective from which the approach was launched has had some shortcomings and shortcomings. Proponents of approach have focused on the input side of the political system, while neglecting entirely the output side. If it is true that political culture has an effect on political behavior, which is what the approach has assumed, it is also true that the political system also has an impact on political culture through various tools of political upbringing, especially educational institutions and the various mass media devices that are controlled by the political system, which seeks Through it to instill certain desirable values ​​and obliterate others undesirable, which ultimately leads to a change in the political culture.

Therefore, the relationship between the political system and political culture is not a one-way relationship, as the political system is viewed as a dependent variable always, and the political culture is always an independent variable. The correct view – which is supported by reality – is that the relationship between them is a circular one on the basis that the political system is influenced by the prevailing political culture in society, and influenced at the same time. Which makes each of them dependent and independent variable at the same time.

Second: The proponents of the approach emphasize the uniqueness of each political system. It is difficult to know why political systems evolve as they do, and why do they diverge from one another? It is true that political culture is responsible for a great deal of variation between political systems. Unless the circular influence and influence relationship between the political system and political culture is taken into account, and linked to each other effectively, it is difficult to construct an empirical political theory based on this approach.

However, it is difficult to say that the approach of political culture is useless in terms of constructing a medium-term empirical theory, given that the procedural practical definition of political culture developed by Almond and Verba within the framework of this approach is based on the three components of political culture: shallow orientations, orientations of submission and attitudes of participation It is a very useful tool for making comparisons. This makes us tend to say that the approach of political culture is of limited use and not useless in terms of building a medium-term empirical theory with reasonable and acceptable explanatory and predictive capacity.

Sources and references:

a. Dr. Jaber Saeed Al-Awad, Comparative Political Systems, Theory and Practice, 6th of October University.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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