What is Political Culture?

Underlying every political system is a unique political culture, or commonly shared ideas, beliefs, and values about a nation or state’s history, citizenship, and government held by a population.  Political culture is based on normative or prescriptive statements about how things ought to be and includes both formal rules and informal customs and traditions.

Political culture generally remains relatively stable over time because important ideas, beliefs, values, customs, and traditions are passed down generationally through various agents including families, schools, the media, and the government through the process of political socialization.  Political socialization helps to ensure that majority of citizens are well grounded in and committed to the values that sustain that political system.  This does not suggest, however, that political culture is uniform and inflexible.  Political culture often consists of diverse subcultures based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.  Furthermore, political and historical events can reshape attitudes and beliefs and cause shifts in political culture.

What Does Political Culture Do?

Provides political system with distinctive characteristics

Political culture significantly influences government and politics within a nation or state.  Political culture shapes the way constitutions are written, the type of government institutions adopted it shapes the type of government institutions adopted, the boundaries of governmental authority, and the role of citizens.

Political culture binds us together

A stable political culture   Political culture unites populations by focusing on what we have in common.  Political culture also provides a framework for disagreement and conflict resolution by setting the boundaries of acceptable political behavior in society.  Furthermore, political culture benefits political systems through cultivating and maintaining diffuse support characterized by political stability, acceptance of the legitimacy of government, and a common goal of preserving the system in place.