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Wilfrid Laurier University
Political Science
Yamsmine Shamsie

CHAPTER 4: POLITICAL CULTURE When studying, pay attention to: 1. Political Culture What is political culture? Political Culture is the fundamental political values, beliefs, and orientations that are widely held within a political community. Sample surveys are used to determine the public attitudes to certain political issues. Others methods to examine political culture is through literature, popular culture, symbols, myths, political institutions, constitution, and policies. Political discourse can also be used to analyze political culture by observing the language, meanings, and interpretations within politics and how they use key terms like democracy, freedom, and equality. Political culture can be divided into countries, then subdivided into regions because of the differing ethnic, class, linguistic, religious, regional, generational, and gender ideals. It is often described as the political orientation. Ideological Perspectives Are there basic differences in the political cultures of Canada and the United States? Ideological Perspectives can be described as the political culture of a political community in terms of its dominant ideological perspective and fundamental politically relevant values. United States for example is considered classical liberal because of their emphasis on protecting rights and freedoms of individuals in a free-market economy and limited government. Hartsz: When European settlers found Canada and the United States, they took the mother country’s leading political culture of liberal “fragments” where individual freedom is pre-dominant. Horotiz: United Empire Loyalists (Americans who left US after War of Independence because they were still loyal to the crown) gave Canada the “Tory Touch” of traditional conservative values and liberal values prevalent in American political culture. This developed into socialist values because the primary ingredient was the presence of both liberal and conservative. Although individualistic values of liberalism are important to Canada and the US, Canada puts emphasis on other values in addition to liberalism. This gives us a “richer” political culture than the US. Lipset: The US and Canada have different political cultures because of history. The US was founded through a revolution while Canada was counter-revolutionary. When Canadians did not assist Americans in overthrowing British rule, Canada held on to a more conservative political culture. Canadians, as a result, are more respectful to authority and are more concerned about maintaining law and order, giving more trust in the government. In addition, Canadians are less individualistic, more likely to support collective action for the common good. Canadians are also characteristic of their greater acceptance and tolerance of differences in society than American political culture because Canadians are more liberal on social views. Canadians also lean towards egalitarian policies that redistribute wealth and income to the poor and disadvantaged while Americans believe more so in equality of opportunity where individuals advance based on merit. However, a survey found that Canadians are losing respect and trust in their government, similar to the US. Does Canada have a fully democratic political culture? Democracy functions best when there are parochial, subject political, and participant political cultures as to not overwhelm the government with demands but still make necessary changes. The sustainability of a democratic system depends on the public support for the basic principles of democracy and the acceptance of authority or the legitimacy of governments that are elected by the people. Furthermore, a level of political interest and understanding is necessary for citizens to participate meaningfully in political life and hold the government accountable for its actions. To answer the question, yes I believe Canada has a fully democratic political culture because the Canadian government allows for protests and encourages activism, gives the vote to those who do not wish to participate in public demonstrations, and foster the public’s political education for further transparency. Support for democracy A survey found that, on a scale of 10 on how important it is to live in a democratic country, the general global consensus is 8.6 while Canada got a 9.0. Conversely, only 62% of Canadians are “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with how the democracy functions in their country. Canadians and Americans alike support liberal democratic values, belief in the desirability of political freedom, individual rights, political equality, and government based on the rule of law. For example, the populations are willing to suspend civil liberties in the case of a national emergency. Why is there distrust of government and politicians? Canadians trust public servant workers but not politicians, for example, 93% believe firefighters are trustworthy and 87% for nurses while politicians only got 12% for local and 7% for national. Majority of Canadians believe either the government doesn’t care about what they think or they don’t believe they have a say in government affairs. Political distrust is greatest among the more educated and younger population because disappointment results when their expectations are unfulfilled. In additional, dissatisfaction may be the result of declining capacity for the government to satisfy because of globalization. Furthermore, the politicians and political institutions themselves play a role in the decline of trust and confidence. Overall, citizens that become more critical of the government, political parties, and politicians have a greater desire for a more influential voice in decision making, thus taking part in more protest activity. Their dissatisfaction with democracy is hardly relevant. Are Canadians interested and knowledgeable about politics? On an everyday basis, very few Canadians are very interested in politics but when elections come around; 4/5ths of Canadians say they pay attention to the media and discussion. Interestingly enough, 60% of Canadians would fail the citizenship knowledge test for immigrants. Although the general level of political knowledge may be low, most people are knowledgeable about political issues they consider important to them. They may not follow political issues defined by politicians, journalists, or academics, but instead, those that interest or concern them. 2. Political Participation Voting Voter turnout can tell you about participation in democratic political culture and the differences in ruling governing elections or the nature of political parties in particular countries. A quarter of Americans do not even register to vote. Countries with various options to vote have a higher turnout. Countries that use proportional systems of elections tend to have higher voter turnout because every vote counts in terms of determining how many representatives each party has in legislature. Proportional systems also tend to have more political parties with the potential to gain seats, giving voters more choices. Countries that use single member plurality, like Canada, may render the votes irrelevant. Thus, voters may not want to vote because even with their support there is no chance of winning. Why has voting tended to decline? Young people vote significantly less than older people with 37% aged 18-24 and 75% aged 65+. This can be explained through the life cycle and generational effect. Young people are more likely to participate in protest activities. People who engage in non-electoral political activities are generally more likely to vote, thus low youth voter turnout cannot be attributed to decisions to engage in political participation other than voting. Other types of political participation Few people directly work for party or candidates in elections and a decreasing number of people join political parties. However, issue-oriented public interest groups have been increasing. For example, there is a 27% increase in membership of civic associations, environmental groups, women’s groups, or peace groups from 1980 to 1999. By participating in public interest groups and social movements, citizens can try to affect government policies and promote social change. Protest activity People can participate in politics through being an active member of political parties, environmental organization, signing petitions, participating in boycotts, or attending lawful demonstrations. Civic Engagement: bowling alone? Putnam Robert Putnam found that participation in groups such as community choirs, bowling leagues, and service organizations developed trust in others, mutual co-operation in pursuit of common goals, tolerance, and leadership skills. Communities with high levels of social capital tend to be healthier, more prosperous, have higher levels of civic engagement, and are better governed. Putman also found that involvement in a variety of social organizations was declining. For example, bowling league membership had declines sharply; instead, people bowl with family and friends now. Putnam attributes to the decline in social organization membership to individualizing effects of television viewing. More time watching television reduces the time to get involve with social organizations. Declining involvement in social organizations is leading to a decline in the vitality of democracy. Although membership in organizations such as Scouts, parent-teacher associations, and bowling leagues has declined, membership in conservation and environmental groups has increased. Regardless of whether social involvement has increased or decreased, Putnam argues that a well- functioning democracy requires not only a particular set of political institutions, but also a society and a political culture that foster trust and co-operation. Who tends to participate? Factors: life-cycle effect; education and social class; gender: political attitudes, interest and knowledge Those with higher levels of education, higher incomes, and professional or managerial occupations are more likely to engage in various forms of political participation, including both electoral and protest activity. However, if there is a major party that represents the working class, the difference in political participation between classes is small. University graduates voting turnout has declined slightly but those with less education have declined sharply. Back in the old days, politics was thought to be a male activity. However, studies have found that the difference between men and women are negligible. Although there are some countries, including Canada, where women more slightly more than men, it is in higher-level political activities like holding national or provincial political office or top position in a political party or interest group that women tend to shy away more than men. Those with a strong sense of attachment to a political party are more likely to vote and be involved in election campaign activities. Conversely, those with a high level of political efficacy, political interest, and political knowledge are more likely to be active participants in politics. Why is voting participation by young persons low? The sense of moral obligation to vote is weaker in younger voters, they tend to pay less attention to elections, have less interest in politics, and have less political knowledge. The lower level of voting in youths is not a result of a cynical attitude on politics or negative feelings concerning all political parties. The generational effect suggests that as youths grow older, today’s younger people will still be less likely to vote than their elders. Elections Canada have tried various activities to encourage young people to vote and it is suggested that schools should provide more and better political education to engage young people in political activity. 3. Political socialization and changing values Agents of political socialization The agents of political socialization include family, peer groups, the educational system, the mass media, religious organizations, the military, unions, and the workplace. Although socialization happens throughout the entire life, generally many basic values and orientations are acquired earlier on. Therefore family plays a large role in political socialization, as seen in parents projecting religious, ethnic, and other group identities to their children. State-directed socialization Educational system As seen in the former Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and Nazi Germany, schools, the media, youth groups, and other organizations promote “correct” values and criticize traditional values. In liberal democracies, education is less explicit in terms of promoting an ideological perspective, but they still promote politically relevant values and ideas. In the United States, the school system was seen s creating a unified, common sense among the immigrant population. American values were promoted through required courses in “civics.” Public education systems also taught to prepare children for a disciplined workforce in an industrial system. In 1960s, 1970s, a more child-centred educational approach emerges in the advanced democracies that value respect for differences and promote multiculturalism. However, the “liberal” approach is challenged with the demand for standards, testing, mathematics, and literacy all the while promoting national values and patriotism instead of multiculturalism. For example, in America, states have reinstated the need to recite the pledge of allegiance, and France has banned wearing religious symbols and clothing in schools. With all the effort to socialize politics into the youths, globalization and the Internet brings views of democracy to authoritarian governments like China and Iran. Furthermore, may develop their own attitudes, beliefs and values because youths seldom passive accept what they are told. Changing value priorities Post-materialist theory Inglehart suggests that the postmaterialist theory explains how political socialization is affected by the conditions present when a person is young. When a generation grows up in an affluent world after World War II, they prioritize the quality of life, and appreciation of more beautiful environment, also known as postmaterialist values. The generation before and during World War II are more likely to hold a concern for economic growth, order, and physical security. A survey found that this is consistent even as the generation ages. Postmaterialism combined with post-industrial, knowledge-based economy strive for a greater access to higher education and more effective means of mass communication. Dalton argues that this results in a new style of citizen politics where there are greater citizen activism, questioning of authority, the development of new political parties and social movements, the raising of new types of issues, and the development of more social values. In addition, the attachment between citizens and political parties diminished. In a survey, 56 countries revealed that the majority of the population is a mix of materialist and post- materialist values and materialists outnumber postmaterialists. However, Canada has the highest amount of postmaterialists. Materialists worry about unemployment, economic prosperity, health care, and taxes. Postmaterialists concern the environment and have added it to the political agenda. The significance of postmaterialism is that its priorities are prevalent among the educated young generation. SOME KEY TERMS Generational effect (142) Generational Effect is the effect on attitudes and behaviour of the views of different generations that persist throughout the life cycle. Life-cycle effect (142) Life Cycle Effect is the effect of one’s age on one’s attitudes and behaviours. As people grow older, their attitudes and behaviours may change due to changing circumstances (such as education, marriage, employment, and retirement) related to age. New style of citizen politics (148) New Style of Citizen Politics is a set of changes including greater citizen activism, the questioning of authority, the development of new political parties and new social movements, the raising of new types of issues, and the development of more liberal social values. Political culture (132) Political Culture is the fundamental political values, beliefs, and orientations that are widely held within a political community. Political efficacy (137) Political Efficacy is the attitude that individuals can have an impact on political decisions and that government is response to what people want. However, it is known to be quite low in advanced democracies. Political socialization (145) Political Socialization is the processes by which the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the political culture are transmitted to members of the political community. Post-materialist theory (147) Post-Materialist Theory is a theory that modern societies are undergoing a fundamental change in value priorities because generations that grew up in the relative security and affluence of the Western world since World War II are more likely to give priority to postmaterialist values than to materialist values. Post-materialist values (147) Postmaterialist Values are non-materialist values such as freedom of expression, participation, concern about the quality of life, and appreciation of a more beautiful environment. CHAPTER 6: UNCONVENTIONAL AND HIGHLY CONFLICTIVE POLITICS: OUTLINE 1. Political protest What is political protest? Political Protest can be defined as oppositional political action that takes place outside formal channels, generally seeking to have government make significant changes in its policies. The forms of protest The most moderate forms of political protest are petitions, legally approved demonstrations, and voluntary boycotts. Non-violent direct actions are a stronger form of political protest and it can include civil disobedience, illegal demonstrations, or peaceful occupation of a building or place. Then there is violent protest, sometimes an unintended provoked consequence of a march or boycott. Other times, premeditated violent protest includes assassinations, guerilla warfare, insurgencies, revolutions, and terrorism. Why does protest occur in democracies? Protest is a means to seek political change when conventional approaches, such as lobbying, have failed. Those who hold power the elite, will not give it up willingly thus giving rise to disruptive, directly, highly conflictive waves for people to advance claims on elites. Protests are healthy in democracies because people can practice their right to protest. The characteristics of protest: 1. Actions take place outside of formal channels An expert in going through the regular channels of organization and government can use them to their own benefit. If it fails, then they can either accept the outcome or find other means outside the formal channels. This is especially evident in issues that people are passionately involved in, and more so when the majority is marginalizing the minority although the defeat comes from a democratic process. 2. They are usually carried out by individuals/groups that aren’t usually important political actors Governments generally accommodate those who have power and resources to shape decisions, leaving the groups or individuals with scarce resources to make themselves important to government decisions. Beginning of 1960s, political scientists began to recognize protest as a political resource. Protest disrupts the government’s routines and demonstrates that a community feels strongly enough about an issue to take it to the streets. Once a marginalized community, generally invisible to the government has caught the attention of the media, they can mobilize further resources including politicians, forwarding their motion. Issues can be marginalized and will only appear after supporters take extraordinary measures. For example, middle-class protest in support of anti-Vietnam War in 1960s because the issue was marginalized. 3. Protest politics generally aims to have government make significant changes in the policies it pursues. Examples of protests leading to change: women’s rights, making farmers’ voices heard There are also fishers, Quebec nationalists, Aboriginals, gays and lesbians, and anti-abortion activists. More on women’s rights: In the late 1800s, women did not have political rights. In the 20 C, political difference in men and women were virtually non-existent. It took Canadian women 50 years to get enfranchised in all provinces through lobbying governments and staging mock parliamentary debates that demonstrate they can argue as persuasively and as rationally as men. Then there are the farmer’s. In the late 19 and early 20 C, farmers felt they were excluded from power and wanted to change the system to reflect their needs. Unlike the women’s suffrage, the farmers formed a political party. Although they were the largest occupational group in the country, they had little influence because Conservatives and Liberals listened to big businesses. The movement founded
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