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date: 26 June 2022

Political Culture in Africalocked

Political Culture in Africalocked

  • Robert NyenhuisRobert NyenhuisDepartment of Political Science, California State Polytechnic University
  •  and Robert MattesRobert MattesSchool of Government and Public Policy, University of Strathclyde

Summary

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.

Subjects

  • World Politics

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