II. Theoretical Background
III. Historical Background
IV. Political Culture
V. Comparison & Conclusion
In the following paper the attempt shall be made to compare Russia and Zimbabwe with regard to their political culture. The first impression might suggest that there is an immense amount of differences which make a comparison between these countries rather implausible. Nevertheless I assume to discover a couple of similarities as far as the political culture is concerned. This assumption is based on the fact that both countries are nominal democracies with constitutions, party systems, elections being held etc. but with a strong deflexion towards authoritarianism. It is generally agreed nowadays that democracy as a form of government can only be successfully implemented if the actors and citizens internalise it as a form of life and thinking as well – so maybe a failing democracy can also be explained by a failed internalisation of democratic values. Secondly, from its independence until the breakdown of the Soviet Union, Zimbabwe has been fairly oriented in the direction of the communist Russia.
After having explained the basic theoretical background of the issue of political culture, I am going to give a brief summary of important, more recent historical developments in the countries. Subsequently, I am going to examine the political culture of both Russia and Zimbabwe which will finally lead to a comparison and conclusion.
II. Theoretical background
A popular defintion of political culture reads: “The political culture of a society consists of the system of empirical beliefs, expressive symbols, and values which defines the situation in which political action takes place.”1. Other political scientists would include sentiments or customs. In general it might be said that political culture describes the correlation between objective political structures and subjective consciousness.2 There is a huge variety of factors which may influence the value system of an individual and the political culture of a region or country, e. g.: ethnicity, religion, interpersonal trust, gender, traditions and social capital.3 Consequently, the influence of these factors and of political culture itself may be subtle and difficult to examine. The analysis of political culture is an important complement to rational choice theory. It provides explanations to questions like: “Wh y does this citizen/political actor prefer to make this decision or another?”. The process of learning the political culture of one’s environemnt is referred to as political socialisation.4 It is shaped by factors like family, church, school and mass media.
Political culture is also closely bound to the term of civil society which “refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values”5. The pioneer scientists in the field of Political Culture, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, have pronounced the vital role of civil society for a democratic order because it creates informed citizens familiar with the customs and formalities of democratic decision making.6 Robert D. Putnam stressed another effect of – even non-political organisations in – civil society: they build social capital, interpersonal trust and values which strengthens the sensation of societal interconnectedness.7
1 Verba 1969, p. 513 as cited in Caramani (Ed.) 2008, p. 423
2 http://lexikon.meyers.de/wissen/politische+Kultur+(Sachartikel) 11. 02. 2009 14.00
3 Caramani (Ed.) 2008, p. 420-442
4 http://www.bpb.de/wissen/09083461160689165296602950396651,0,0,Politische_Sozialisation.html 11. 02. 2009 19.00
5 http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/CCS/what_is_civil_society.htm 11. 02. 2009 20.00
6 Almond & Verba 1989
7 Putnam 1994