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Political Culture in Africa  

Robert Nyenhuis and Robert Mattes

A useful summary of political culture is a people’s values, knowledge, and evaluations of their political community, political regime, and political institutions, as well as how they see themselves and others as citizens. Although the current map of Africa was originally drawn by European colonial powers, its states and state boundaries are no longer artificial abstractions. Ordinary Africans have developed a strong identification with their national identities, even as many maintain strong attachments to subnational linguistic, regional, or religious identities. Africans also say they want those states to be governed democratically, though the depth of their commitment to all aspects of democratic governance is not always consistent. Other aspects of political culture are marked by important contradictions. Even though people can be highly critical of incumbent leaders, they tend to exhibit high and often uncritical levels of trust in government and state institutions. At the same time, they express very low levels of trust in other citizens, or at least in those who do not share common ethnic or local identities. Yet they have high levels of membership in community organizations and are often involved in local politics. And though they express a high level of interest in politics, most Africans exhibit low levels of political efficacy. But Africa is not a country, and these attitudes often are often very different across the continent. Indeed, in many places, it is far from certain whether citizen support is sufficient to sustain the multiparty systems and democratic rule that emerged in the 1990s.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on LGBT Representation and Party Politics  

Paul Snell

LGBT people have gone from being a “politics” to a “people” from the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st. They were mostly excluded from public life, and reduced to their sexuality. And when they weren’t reduced, they were restricted. Legislatures, not only failed to protect LGBT people from discrimination, but created new barriers for them under the guise of “protecting” the presumed heterosexual and cisgender basis of society. In America, the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) are the most consequential examples of legislative action that treats LGBT people as morality issues rather than citizens. As LGBT people have gone from the margins to the center of public life, however, their political status changed. LGBT people are no longer a sexuality—but a constituency. There is an undisputed electoral connection. Legislators act on behalf of LGBT constituents in symbolic and substantive ways ranging from membership in LGBT caucuses in their chambers, to voting for bills that clearly help LGBT citizens in specific ways. They also exert pressure on representatives for whom they share no electoral connection, and who are not themselves LGBT. These allies act for LGBT citizens because they it aligns with ideological beliefs in justice and equity. This growth in activity has not only been limited to the US Congress, but has also occurred in US state legislatures and around the world. Activity has not always been synonymous with success, as the US Congress’s long struggle to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that is inclusive of all aspects of the “LGBT” umbrella demonstrates. Nevertheless, LGBT voters are no longer “an issue”, but a part of the polity. Now that “LGBT” is an established political group there are serious questions that need to be addressed about what is being represented—and why it matters.

Article

Albania: Civil-Military Relations in the Post–Cold War Era  

Gerassimos Karabelias

Albania’s peaceful exit from the communist world, the adoption of NATO-guided changes in its military institution, the establishment of closer ties with the European Union in conjunction with the strong presence of political leaders in the country’s domestic and internal affairs and its latest economic growth offer the impression of a successful transformation of a former Communist state to a Western-type democratic political model and civil-military relations. However, what is often overlooked is that the country’s political elites, emerging from a lengthy, deeply rooted tradition of clan and tribal power structures, have dominated Albanian politics and its civil-military relations, whether under a monarchical or a communist regime. By combining a pro-Western civilianization profile with an efficient control over Albania’s sociopolitical culture and economic development, these traditional elites permitted the officer corps to take the Western-prescribed necessary steps, during the post–Cold War period, as long as their interests were not deeply affected. The small size of the officer corps, the absence of semiautonomous economic power, as well as of corporate unity in conjunction with the existence of a servile political culture and ideology toward the domestic political elites have forced the country’s civil-military relations to resemble the Western ones only in appearance. The inability/unwillingness of these elites to take some steps towards the country’s social, economic and political advancement raises the question of whether both domestic and external forces are truly committed to democracy or are going to be totally satisfied with only the process of putting “old wine in new bottles.”

Article

Political Culture in Latin America  

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister and Daniela Osorio Michel

Political culture in Latin America leans democratic and participatory. Even amid institutional backsliding in the early 21st century, most leaders assume office and claim their mandate via elections. However, in the face of significant governance challenges, reservations regarding democracy and democratic processes are on the rise. In 2014, 68% of individuals in the average Latin American country expressed support for democracy. Five years later, in 2019, that figure was 58%. Support for state-led redistribution declined during this period as well. In brief, there are signs that the public is moving away from a social democratic orientation. Generalizations about political culture risk overlooking significant heterogeneity in Latin American beliefs and inclinations. Survey data, especially from comparative projects, permit assessments of the region’s political culture across time, countries, and population subgroups. Analyses of these data paint an appropriately nuanced portrait of Latin American political culture. Support for core democratic values is highest in the Southern Cone countries of Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. Support for democratic institutions and processes is far lower in countries that have experienced recent instability and governance challenges, including Honduras and Peru. In Latin America, the young tend to be less committed to democratic institutions and processes. Those in rural areas tend to be more inclined to engage in local politics. Those who are poor tend to perceive themselves as less capable of understanding key national issues. Finally, women tend to be politically more conservative. How people in the region believe politics ought to be organized and function—that is, political culture in Latin America—matters. This is because the public’s inclinations to express core democratic values and to engage in the system shape political outcomes. Where individuals lack confidence in the democratic state, they are less prone to support it. Further, they are more likely to issue demands, and to look for leadership, outside of formal political channels. The comparatively low and decreasing levels of support for democracy place Latin America at a crossroads. Failure to meet key governance challenges—corruption, inequality, crime—could accelerate declines in confidence and interest in participatory democracy, to the detriment of political culture and democratic consolidation in Latin America.

Article

Multiculturalism and Political Philosophy  

Annamari Vitikainen

Multiculturalism has been used both as a descriptive and a normative term, as well as a term referring to particular types of state policies. As a descriptive term, multiculturalism refers to the state of affairs present in contemporary societies: that of cultural diversity. As a normative term, multiculturalism affirms cultural diversity as an acceptable state of affairs, and provides normative grounds for accommodating this diversity. As a policy-oriented term, multiculturalism refers to a variety of state policies that aim to accommodate people’s cultural differences—most notably, different types of culturally differentiated rights. The main focus of the debates on multiculturalism within political philosophy has been on normative multiculturalism, and the broader normative questions relating to the appropriate grounds for responding to people’s cultural differences. The debates on descriptive multiculturalism and on particular multicultural policies, however, feed into the debates on normative multiculturalism. One’s views on the nature of culture, the value of culture, and the appropriate means of demarcating group boundaries have implications on the ways in which one understands the proper objects of cultural accommodation, as well as the extent to which such accommodation should be applied. The different types of multicultural policies—including rights of indigenous groups, immigrants, and national minorities—incorporate slightly different sets of normative considerations that must be independently assessed and that also feed into the more general debates on the normative foundations for cultural accommodation. Equality-based and identity-based arguments for cultural concern provide strong grounds for the state to be concerned about people’s cultural differences and to aim to alleviate culturally induced disadvantages. The case for (or against) culturally differentiated rights as a means for responding to these disadvantages may, however, come from several sources, including approaches to cultural diversity based on equality, autonomy, toleration, and state neutrality. While there is relative (albeit not full) agreement among normative theorists of multiculturalism that differentiated rights may be acceptable, though not always required or even desired, responses to cultural diversity, disagreements about the normative bases, and extents of application, remain.

Article

Political Culture of East Asia  

Jie Lu

East Asia has been defined as a cultural sphere characterized by the lasting influence of Confucianism on its political and socioeconomic lives. Academic interest in the political culture of East Asia has been mainly shaped by the great diversity in this region’s economic and political landscapes. The systematic differences between Confucianism and its Western philosophical counterparts in prescribing how to organize societies and manage state–society relationships are central to understanding the uniqueness of this region’s political culture. The features of East Asian political culture cast some significant influence over the dynamics of political practice and development in the region, including but not limited to how East Asians assess their political regimes, conceptualize democracy, and participate in politics. Increasing access to high-quality regional barometer surveys, as well as expanding global survey projects, has empowered students of comparative politics to more effectively examine the political culture of East Asia and test the so-called “Asian values thesis” in a much broader context. Yet, among academics, there is a lack of agreement on what constitutes East Asia. This, along with discrepancies between empirical instruments and corresponding theoretical constructs and insufficient research designs tailored to various versions of the “Asian values thesis,” has prevented more fruitful dialogues among scholars. Considering such issues in future research could contribute to more effective accumulation of knowledge and yield a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of the political culture of East Asia.

Article

Militaries’ Organizational Cultures in a Globalizing World  

Joseph Soeters

Organizational cultures in military organizations consist of symbols, practices, habits, hidden assumptions, and beliefs about what needs to be done, and what is appropriate and what is not, before, during, and after operations. Generally speaking, organizational cultures in military institutions are similar to those in any other work organization. Upon closer examination, however, it appears that the military’s 24/7, communal life outside society, its emphasis on hierarchy and discipline, and in particular its license to use large-scale force make it different. Relatedly, the way in which the military’s organizational cultures are created and recreated has aspects and emphases that are less common in conventional work organizations. Recruiting and socialization patterns of new organizational members in the military have been studied frequently because they are so distinctive. Military organizational cultures are not identical worldwide. Military organizations differ internationally, because military organizations are still strongly connected to their national backgrounds, including the languages, legal regimes, political atmospheres, and general ways of living in the many nations across the globe. National societies and their histories shape military organizational cultures in multiple ways. Dramatic experiences at the national level, for instance during World War II, may lead to a continuation or, just the opposite, the disruption, of armed forces’ organizational cultures. Yet, despite the differences, something of a world culture impacting on the use of force seems to emerge as well. In an era when international alliances carry out most missions, different national backgrounds influence strategic decision-making and the way operations are conducted. Most of the time, national armed forces operate separately, in their own area (or time) of operations, sometimes guiding troops from smaller and less wealthy partnering nations. The coordination of actions between the various areas of operation is generally not very well elaborated. This applies not only to combat operations but also to peace missions. A full integration of national armed forces, such as in a United Nations security force or a European army, is an ideal that some may dream of, but it is still far from reality. The greatest degree of integration is likely to be found in international headquarters.

Article

The American South and LGBT Politics  

Jay Barth

The cultural distinctiveness of the South led to a backlash in the region in the years following the rise of a national LGBTQ movement. In the decades that followed, political science research showed that the South remained fundamentally different than elsewhere in the nation in terms of attitudes regarding LGBTQ individuals and policies, both regarding overall views and Southerners’ imperviousness to personal contact with queer individuals in terms of reshaping attitudes. In electoral politics, explicit group-based appeals regarding LGBTQ individuals were often employed. And, policy divergence between the South and non-South was stark. While unambiguous shifts have occurred in the South in a more pro-LGBTQ rights direction, the region remains distinctively conservative when it comes to LGBTQ politics. Particularly striking are Southern attitudes toward transgender individuals and policies. That said, “two Souths” have begun to cement on LGBTQ politics as urbanized and suburbanized areas have diverged. Moreover, within the region’s Republican Party, a factional divide has begun to show itself across the South. The South remains consequential in gauging whether backpedaling on the dramatic progress made on LGBTQ rights is occurring in the United States.

Article

Resource Mobilization Among Religious Activists  

Christopher Chapp

The concept of resource mobilization helps explain how and why religious beliefs and attachments can become a political force. Religious actors achieve their political aims only when they are able to mobilize resources on behalf of a particular cause. While material resources are perhaps the most intuitive prerequisite for social movement success, what sets religious activism apart is not access to capital, but rather activists’ ability to leverage organizational, moral, cultural, and human resources. Religious groups ranging from local churches to broad-based parachurch organizations take advantage of organizational resources to support their goals. Religious activists also leverage moral resources by reframing a cause in appropriate moral terms to spur potential supporters into action or gain direct institutional access. Cultural resources, particularly civic skills that are developed in apolitical contexts, are regularly adapted and appropriated to achieve political objectives. And, human resources such as local congregational leadership are an important factor in political movements ranging from the American civil rights movement to the prolife movement.

Article

Church, State, and Political Culture in Orthodox Christianity  

Victor Roudometof

Conventional views assume a systematic intertwining between the Orthodox Church and the state, which makes Orthodox countries culturally hostile to modernity. These views have been shaped by a long history of antagonistic relationships between Western and Eastern European states and fail to grasp important long-term trends within the Orthodox religious landscape. The political culture in Orthodox countries has undergone several changes across the centuries. Under the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire, complementarity provided the blueprint for church-state relations. In later centuries, this model was modified to suit the Ottoman and Russian empires. Modernization also prompted Orthodox states to create state churches. Church-state separation was further pursued by communist and colonial regimes and was sometimes accompanied by the active persecution of clergy and the faithful. The political culture of modern Orthodox countries was decisively shaped by the nationalization of the faith, spurred by various national revivals. In the 19th century, Orthodox Christianity became a nationalized religion, whereby strong associations were established between newly constructed churches in Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania and these countries’ respective nations. This version of Orthodoxy was exported into the New World through communities of East European immigrants. The communist takeover of Eastern Europe further strengthened administrative fragmentation. After 1989–1990, the fragmentation of the USSR allowed for a more open expression of the model of national religion. Orthodoxy was revitalized but also served as a cornerstone for Russian, Ukrainian, and Estonian national identities, leading to regional ecclesiastical disputes. Current institutional dilemmas have resulted from these long-term processes.

Article

Environmentalism in Latin America  

Guillermo Castro H.

The environment is considered here as the product of the human interventions in natural systems through socially organized work processes. These processes also produce environmental conflicts, when different human groups try to make mutually exclusive uses of the same ecosystem. As a consequence, every society has a characteristic environment associated with particular landscapes, as well as a peculiar environmental culture, developed along time. Environmentalism, in this perspective, expresses the cultural values and political conducts of different social sectors resulting from the contradictions inherent to their role in the production of the environment, as well as those between the natural conditions necessary for the production of goods and the reproduction of human societies. In Latin America, this has led to the formation of at least three different environmentalisms: a liberal technocratic one, closely related with international organizations, centered on the concept of sustainable development; an ecological one, centered on the conflicts associated with the fracture of the social metabolism of nature due to an extra-activist approach to human and natural resources in the region, and a popular de facto environmentalism, associated both with peasant and indigenous groups that resist the transformation of their natural legacy into natural capital, and urban popular demands for the access to basic environmental conditions of life, such as potable water, sanitation, clean air, and public spaces.

Article

The Politics of LGBQTI Human Rights in the United Nations System  

Dominic McGoldrick

The United Nations system has been a major global site of political and legal contestation for LGBTQI human rights. However, the lack of consensus has led to major divisions within the UN’s political institutions. The independent human rights institutions that do exist within the UN system have been more progressive in advancing LGBTQI issues.

Article

The U.S. Civil–Military Relations Gap and the Erosion of Historical Democratic Norms  

Marybeth P. Ulrich

The gap between the American people and the United States military is growing, with implications for the preservation of democratic institutions. The gap has contributed to the erosion of democratic norms by negatively affecting perceptions of citizenship obligations and weakening the attachment to national institutions. Ironically, a feature of the gap is the rise of a “warrior caste” of men and women who self-select to join the all-volunteer force (AVF), leaving the remaining 99.5% of citizens to think that national defense is a concern for “other people.” With only 1 in 200 Americans directly involved in military service, the wars that the AVF serves in do not directly affect most Americans or their elected representatives. This indifference has led to perpetual wars with poor oversight, eroding the democratic norm of citizen oversight of and participation in the nation’s wars. The civil–military gap can be mitigated with a comprehensive expansion of programs that offer opportunities for military and national service, the adoption of more robust civic education in civilian and military education systems, and fostering a culture of defense among the citizenry.

Article

The Politics of Public Broadcasters in Africa  

Corinna Arndt

National broadcasters are a standard feature across Africa. Set up by colonial regimes, they dominate media landscapes with their unrivaled geographic reach. Radio continues to be the main—and often only—source of information outside urban centers, where commercial media struggle to survive and illiteracy remains a challenge. Although access to new media has risen exponentially, use of mobile technology continues to be prohibitively expensive. Some national broadcasters are official state broadcasters: owned, run, and editorially controlled by government. However, many claim to be public broadcasters. By definition, these are accountable to the public rather than the government of the day: accessible to a universal audience, inclusive of a wide range of views; and fair, balanced, and independent in their journalism. This aspiration is reflected in national and supranational policy such as the African Charter on Broadcasting and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. In reality, these broadcasters lack de jure independence, the basic condition for them to be considered “public.” They are, in law and in practice, state broadcasters—owed to a range of historical, social, financial, and political determinants despite attempts by journalists and civil society to change this. Principally, the political will has been lacking—in colonial as well as postcolonial elites—to relinquish control of newsrooms and open up space for dissent. There is one exception: the South African Broadcasting Corporation was granted de jure independence following apartheid and enjoys unrivaled (though contested) legal guarantees and journalistic freedom. Its ongoing difficulties to fully meet its public broadcasting mandate despite this relatively conducive environment demonstrate that de jure independence is a necessary but not sufficient condition for successful broadcasting transformation, and that organizational culture is an important variable to be taken into account.

Article

Domestic and International Constituencies in Military Coups  

Ömer Aslan

Available scholarship on civil–military relations literature treats the occurrence of military coups d’état either as a purely domestic affair or a simple outcome of international dynamics. That is, a large body of literature assumes that a military coup d’état takes place on either a domestic or international level. When taken as an exclusively domestic affair, reasons for military coups d’état run the gamut from domestic instability and political corruption, state weakness, economic collapse, and the institutional culture of a military and its desire to protect its corporate interests, to political culture and popular support. Yet, a parallel body of work either reduces coup plotters to the status of proxies of powerful global state actors or assumes that wars, crises, external threats, foreign military training, or peacekeeping missions shape the military decision to seize power. Both perspectives deservedly take the military as the focal point of coups, yet presume either that that military is easily able to dictate a particular course of action to all the remaining domestic actors or is unidirectionally influenced by international actors. A coup d’état, however, must take into account different constituencies within and outside the military for it to take place. At the domestic level various actors, from opposition politicians, media corporations, and labor unions to business associations and “military opinion” itself, need to be taken into account. At the international level, coup plotters may either directly engage in negotiations, bargaining, and dialogue with or try to interpret signals delivered by external state actors. Coup plotters may use military-to-military relations developed by military officer exchanges and joint work in common security and defense organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Given that they are rational actors, coup-makers know well enough to look for ‘propitious circumstances’ at home and abroad (regional and international) as well as predict resonance between the domestic and international environment. Although military elites are better positioned to use their international network to engage in dialogue and bargaining at the international level, mid-ranking officers also take into consideration the outside dimension. When several domestic pressure groups such as business organizations or ordinary people deem a coup not in their interest or not to be a preferred action at a particular point in time, and show their displeasure by sustained street action, a permissive international environment may not suffice to produce a coup. It is in the context of this brittle coup coalition and in this intimate and fragile appeal to domestic and international audiences that a coup attempt takes place.