Political Culture in the First World
Political culture and values identify many aspects of social life and show the general level of well-being in a country. Therefore, the determination of the factors and prerequisites that influence their formation in social consciousness is an issue of high interest for many scientists. There are many approaches to defining the interrelation between the formation of political preferences in an individual’s mind and the reasons for it. However, despite the variety of approaches, all of them have one similarity, which is historical background. Events, which occurred in the past, had a strong effect on the understanding of politics and its role by people in the 20th century. At the same time, the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century brought core changes in the world order and split society into the generation that accepted the ideology and political outlook of the industrialized world and the generation that was born in post-industrialization time and that was focused on other social priorities and values.
Under these circumstances, it is especially important to find out what factors determine the formation of political culture and how the influence of these factors differs in different countries. Among the wide range of possible factors, professors Ronald Inglehart and Scott Flanagan argue about the significance of four major ones: historical background, religion, education, and economic development of each country. The following issue determines the importance of this discussion in contemporary society: nowadays, society is actively engaged in political life. Therefore, the formation of high standard political culture among the members of society is a direct way to favorable political environment worldwide.
In a number of their articles, professors Inglehart and Flanagan argue about the influence of historical events on the formation of political culture. Thus, world history outlines three important stages in the development of social relations and economy. These stages include preindustrial, industrial, and post-industrial periods. Although these periods are common for all nations, each country has its specific experience during each of them. Thus, the preindustrial period in Western Europe differed remarkably from the majority of the countries of the world that were mostly influenced by some external factors. At the same time, Western Europe was self-generated as it already had certain factors that stimulated the process of self-industrialization in this region. Therefore, this condition determined the political culture at this time in many ways. For instance, society in Western Europe was less dependent on the influence of political powers, as the fact of industrialization itself was not only a matter of political direction of the countries but a phase of development, conditioned by the previous experience of the region. Meanwhile, in other countries, such as Japan or the USSR, for instance, political power was the main determinant of industrialization development. Therefore, each of three stages of social development caused some political changes in society. Preindustrial period led to the strengthening of capitalists’ role in the political area of many countries and weakened the positions of aristocracy, although they still had an important role in the social hierarchy of relations. Consequently, industrial period led to the prosperity of proletariat in communistic countries and led to a serious opposition between capitalistic and communistic camps. Finally, the current period, which is also known as post-industrial one, is a time proclaimed to serve for the development of core democratic values, among which are freedom of speech, respect for privacy, and others. Therefore, the examples of these three important historical stages show that the values, which become important in society, are formed under the conditions of the events and problems actual for society in a given time.
The next factor, which determines the formation of political culture, is religion. During any historical period, religion was one of the most powerful ways of influence on social opinion. Therefore, there is a demonstrative interrelation between the attitude of society and its economic achievement and growth. Thus, the least developed of three stages, pre-industrial one, was a period, when religion had the strongest impact on society. At the same time, industrial period was known as the time that contributed to significant transformations in the role of religion in social life. Secularization of state power became one of the key factors that launched the process of progressive industrial development and focused attention on personal opportunities of an individual. On the other hand, Inglehart and Flanagan discuss another possible variant of religion’s role referring to Weber’s position. Although Weber claimed that Protestantism had led to economic growth and further social development, in fact, each religion, which had limited power, had the same effect on society. Moreover, there are also countries, which remain under the dominant influence of religion but not the state, and they have still managed to succeed in the process of modernization. These are the countries rich in oil. Even though they have certain progress in different social spheres, it is not the result of progressive political and social actions but a matter of extensive financial opportunities. Therefore, religion is the factor that may either stimulate or discourage economic growth, and it is important to set correct limits to the influence of religion on different social spheres.
Education gives a person access to knowledge in numerous spheres. Thus, when researching the aspect of education, professors Inglehart and Flanagan argue about interrelation and hierarchy of influence between social class and education itself. On the one hand, it is widely recognized that education is one of the factors that have a positive impact on the formation of political culture. At the same time, there are some approaches to the interrelation between education and political orientation. Thus, cognitive theory states that education develops the outlook of a person and enables one to analyze different social events critically. Hence, people with higher level of education develop such features as tolerance and respect for the opinion of other individuals. The second approach is socialization theory that focuses on the process of socialization during education. It states that the process of interaction and cooperation between educated people gives a significant contribution to the general social development. Despite different opinions, expressed in these two approaches, both of them demonstrate that education gives an opportunity to understand the social process better and forms the correct attitude to different important historical events. Therefore, the role of education in the development of political culture is significant.
Many researchers find evident interrelation between economic development of the country and political culture of its society. Thus, Flanagan and Inglehart in their articles deliberate whether economic development is the prerequisite of political culture development or the process is opposite. Therefore, professors refer to economic theory to solve this issue. At first, the thought about the economy as the fight of the poor against the rich was expressed by Plato. However, Marx managed to develop these ideas and transform to the ideology that would be followed by millions of people. Meanwhile, there are significant differences between the nations that have different GDP in their countries. Thus, the African countries with an average income less than 100 dollars and serious problems of starvation have contrast political preferences in comparison to progressive countries. Therefore, the political culture of a person may form independently and objectively when there is no need to care about such basic needs as food, water, health care, and life safety. The nations with stable economic growth do not have these problems; hence, they have much more opportunities for the development of proper political culture than countries with serious economic problems.
Contemporary Relevance of the Debate
The contemporary relevance of professors’ debate lies in its opportunity to improve the political culture of modern society through clarifying the importance of some factors in the process of political culture formation. Thus, post-industrial period is the time focused on the development of core political and law values. Their formation directly depends on the participation of society in this process. Therefore, it is crucially important to provide the members of society with an opportunity to form proper political values. Moreover, this goal may be reached through the identification of factors that influence the formation of political culture in society.
In conclusion, it is necessary to say that political culture plays an important role in social life and its further development. Therefore, it should be one of the most important priorities for society to develop those areas since they have a positive effect on the formation of political culture. There are many approaches to identify these areas, but each of them is worth of attention, as it contributes to this question and develops it. Despite the variety of opinions, it is difficult to argue with the importance of some factors. Among them are historical background, religion, education, and economic development of each country. Each of them affects individual’s consciousness and determines the way political orientation is formed. Therefore, attention to these key aspects is one of the most effective ways to succeed in the formation of correct political orientation in society.