Almond and Verba's Civic Culture


In Almond and Verba's original study, the values and attitudes which emerge with, and work to sustain, participatory democratic institutions relate to the manner in which people within a polity view their relationships with others vis a vis their own interests. The civic culture is pluralistic, and "based on communication and persuasion, a culture of consensus and diversity, a culture that [permits] change but [moderates] it" (Almond and Verba 1963, 8). This civic culture is but one example of political culture generally, which they take to refer to "the specifically political orientations -- attitudes towards the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the role of the self in the system" (13). Moreover, in its position of general values and attitudes shared by the populace, political culture is formulated as "the connecting link between micro- and macropolitics" (33).

In their five-nation study of mass attitudes and values, Almond and Verba claim to have identified three broad types of political culture: 1) parochial, in which no clear differentiation of specific political roles and expectations exists among actors, i.e. "political specialization is minimal" (19); 2) subject, in which institutional and role differentiation exists in political life, but towards which the citizen stands in largely passive relations; and 3) participant, in which the relationships between specialized institutions and citizen opinion and activity is interactive. They summarize this general schema as follows:  

Furthermore, actual societies tend to exhibit combinations of these and other, more specific, characteristics. The civic culture, for instance, exhibits participatory characteristics in which participatory action is based upon assumptions of rationality, and in such a way that "political culture and political structure are congruent" (31). Moreover, the civic culture, with its emphasis upon rational participation in political life, combines with, rather than replaces, the "subject and parochial political orientations. ... The maintenance of these more traditional attitudes and their fusion with the participant orientations lead to a balanced political culture in which political activity, involvement, and rationality exist but are balanced by passivity, traditionality, and commitment to parochial values" (31-32).

Pursuing the same theme, Inglehart finds that, among the polities of Europe, basic satisfaction with life and political circumstance, and levels of inter-personal trust, are strongly correlated with both the existence of relatively long-lived and stable democratic institutions, and with relative affluence of the populace (1988, 1207-16). After examining economic, political, and cultural variables for several European polities over the twentieth century, using LISREL analysis, Inglehart contends that "viable democracy does not depend on economic factors alone. Specific cultural factors are crucial, and they in turn are related to economic and macropolitical developments. ... Stable democracy reflects the interaction of economic, political, and cultural factors" (1220).

Almond and Verba, and later, Inglehart, argue that if "a democratic political system is one in which the ordinary citizen participates in political decisions, a democratic political culture should consist of a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, perceptions and the like, that support participation" (Almond and Verba, 178). Moreover, associated with this participatory value-orientation is an assumption about the character of rational behaviour in participation, this as opposed to "emotional", sentiment-driven involvement.

Inglehart suggests a strong inter-relationship between democratic institutions and economic affluence. Given Almond and Verba's characterization of the rationalistic participatory values which correspond with the democratic and affluent polities which Inglehart considers, the present study's initial examination of the mechanistic world-view of industrial, market-led economic culture suggests that this world-view historically and geographically corresponds with the European and Anglo-American industrial democracies of Almond and Verba's, and Inglehart's, studies.