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political culture


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The attitudes, beliefs, and values which underpin the operation of a particular political system. These were seen as including knowledge and skills about the operation of the political system, positive and negative emotional feelings towards it, and evaluative judgements about the system. Particular regional, ethnic, or other groups within a political system with their own distinctive sets of values, attitudes, and beliefs were referred to as subcultures. A greater awareness developed over time in the literature of the importance of studying elite political cultures, given that the influence of individuals in the political process varies significantly. One of the principal objections to political culture is that it can be used as a ‘garbage can variable’ to explain anything which cannot be accounted for in any other way. Hence, whilst appearing to explain everything, it actually explains very little. Cultural explanations can, nevertheless, assist the understanding of how reactions to political events and developments may vary in different societies, while the analysis of subcultures remains important in understanding tensions and cleavages within particular societies.

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Subjects: Politics.


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