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political culturethe norms, beliefs and values within a political system. It is usually assumed that a particular political culture is built up as the result of a long historical development and that its distinctive character exerts a profound influence on the form and effectiveness, or otherwise, of the political system with which it is associated. The term is most associated with the systems approach (see POLITICAL SYSTEM) within political analysis, which was in vogue in the 1950s and 60s in the US (e.g. G. Almond and S. Verba, The Civic Culture, 1965). The approach has been of most value in stimulating cross-cultural comparative research on political cultures, e.g. Almond‘s distinction between ‘participatory’, ‘subject’ and ‘parochial’ political orientations within political cultures. One central assumption of political-culture theorists is that the particular civic culture underlying liberal democracies such as the UK and the US, a mixture of participatory orientations tempered by political DEFERENCE, has been both a cause and effect of the greater political stability and effectiveness of these systems compared with other systems. From a different theoretical perspective, however, political culture can also be seen as involving cultural and ideological HEGEMONY. In this context, rather than being a sign of political effectiveness, political culture's role may be viewed as a conservative force preventing a social transition to more favourable social and political arrangements, (see also CULTURE, POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000