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Essay/Term paper: Culture & democracy

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Essays

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There may be many ways in which culture can affect

political structure of one country or another, yet, arguably

the most important way that a country"s culture affects

democracy is through political socialization. According to

Alexis de Tocqueville and his book "Democracy", he

defines culture as an ordered set of symbols, and in turn,

political culture as a set of values and orientations through

which one perceives and reacts to authority. The way that

this set of values and orientations is gained by each person,

is through the process of political socialization that begins

since early childhood and produces "visible" results as a

person becomes a mature individual.

While it is hard to draw a clear line of when political

socialization is a completed process, mainly due to varying

degrees of a each individual"s education, it is safe,

however, to assume that a person is set in his ways close to

the end of his life"s second decade. This assumption, by

virtue of being only an educated guess and thus a broad

generalization, but not a valid statistic of any kind, has its

drawbacks. One must also take into account the fact that

an average person"s mind and experience continue to grow

and develop way beyond the age of twenty, thus giving a

possibility of weighing the advantages and disadvantages of

one"s thinking on a particular issue and its alteration. This

holds true for most people, provided that they are

free-thinking individuals, whose thought process has not

been heavily influenced by unnecessary dogmas and

hindered by agents of political socialization early on in their

lives. This brings us to our next topic.

Parents, school and church are all important agents of

political socialization for anybody. Statistical studies have

been done and have long since become common

knowledge that a child of Democrats is likely to vote

Democrat, respectively, a child of Republicans is more

likely to vote Republican, although both of said people are

free to choose a different way to vote. For many individuals

school and church are second homes. Both institutions

shape individuals in one way or another, producing different

results. While a liberal school may produce free-thinking,

progressive and well-educated individuals, another may

shell out obedient soldier-like "good citizens" that are ready

to follow their leader through rain and fire in whichever

direction. Churches are less likely to vary in the amplitude

of their teachings the way that schools do, i.e. although

most churches preach obedience to one supreme being or

another, they too can produce differently socialized

individuals that can range from religious fanatics to liberal

individuals that are willing to fend for themselves and not be

skewed by the views of the majority. Enlightenment of a

person plays a key role in his personal freedom.

Jeremy Bentham once said that "the liberated intelligence is

sufficient basis for political order and progress." Same can

be said about democracy. Better education gives way to

independent thought that is likely to perpetuate natural

ways of living that ultimately lead to freedom of choice and

action, i.e. democracy. This must not be confused with

anarchy, where no government of any sort is recognized.

Anarchy leads to chaos, which is an unnatural way of life

for a person. This can be proven by observing self and

others. Generally people look for patterns in life. They may

eat like foods and dress alike from day to day depending

on their activities. They may also sit in same places and visit

same locations as their life goes by. All this is due to a

common goal of extracting the most out of one"s position,

thus, things that offer the greatest amount of utility are

selected most often over the ones that don"t. While, at first

sight, anarchy may offer the greatest amount of freedom,

subsequently it destroys many of the favorable choices for

an individual by virtue of being chaotic and becomes

unnatural to one"s being. While it is natural for a person to

develop self and things around him, anarchy hinders

progress, but democracy stimulates it and protects it.

One can of course argue that sometimes great progress that

rivals that of democratic industrialized nations, can be

noticed in authoritarian regimes. As an example one may

use an issue like Soviet Union and space exploration. It is

common knowledge that the USSR, while having an

authoritarian regime, has successfully sent the first man into

space. At the time, in 1961 this event was considered of

world-class importance and on the cutting edge of

technology. However, most of the other technology such as

automobile industry and household products, suffered due

to such things as uneven allocation of the workforce,

absence of the free market economy and thus willingness to

compete for better quality products. Such competition was

stimulated artificially by the government, which, needless to

say was unnatural and hindering to the overall progress of

the people. A country of vast natural resources and a

well-educated populace is suffering from various economic

hardships due to lack of democracy throughout

seventy-five years of USSR"s existence. Another example

can be drawn from observing East and West Germany

before their unification in 1989. While the "more or less"

democratic West Germany prospered, authoritarian-led

East Germany trailed behind.

To some, above-mentioned information may be a clear

example of great economic virtues of democracy, but let us

not digress and return to the issue of political socialization.

Most of the world democracies are utilizing a merit-based

system of power allocation. Those with greater degree of

competence in one area or another are more likely to play

key roles in that area, i.e. most competent people are

ideally chosen as leaders. To prove to the populace that

one is most competent, one must strive to be the best in

one"s area of expertise. Public then recognizes the

importance of such an individual and selects him/her to be

their leader, provided that he will serve public interests. A

concept of deference is very important to a successful

functioning democracy - willingness of the people of lower

classes to defer their governance to the upper classes.

Political socialization of a merit-based system is more likely

to produce a democracy than that of a hierarchically

ordered one. A counter-argument to this issue may sound

such as to say that deference is more of an authoritarian

concept by nature. Theoretically it is, however, when

deference is implemented in a democracy, such as in the

United Kingdom, it is bound to produce great results and

put the country on the track of great social and economic

progress. Critics may respond by citing the notorious 11+

exam as an important tool of deference that gives way to a

highly stratified society. The reality of the situation is that

11+ exam is not absolutely necessary for the success of

democratic deference. This has been recognized by masses

and is being done away with by the ruling Labour party.

In France, education and raising of cultural standards has

also paved the way for a democracy. Interestingly enough,

a boost in education that in turn prepared public for more

democratic life, was brought about by Napoleon. He built

an army of conscripts from different areas of the country

that spoke different languages. In order for the army to

function properly, soldiers needed to be able to speak a

common language. Thus, mass education of soldiers was

undertaken which trickled down to their families and settled

with later generations. Non-cross-cutting cleavages such as

people"s religious cleavage that did not get in the way of a

working cleavage and provided for oppression of the

lower-class masses, also resulted in a more democratic

society by producing coup d"etats. At the time it was

unlikely for the newly-formed democratic society to revert

to monarchical rule. This proves that people, whose

political socialization included largely democratic ideals will

always select democracy over any form of authoritarian


It has been said that parties reflect societies they represent.

Modern parties have become instruments of democracy

and can be found in most countries around the world. It has

been also since long recognized that in most cases a person

determines his adherence to a party through the process of

the political socialization, thus a majority of the

democracies must be thankful to democratic way of

political socialization and political culture. It is not by

accident that one"s education begins early. Medical

expertise turned public knowledge, certifies that a young

brain is like a sponge. Things learned at an early age are

more likely to reside in a person"s long-term memory. As a

parallel, democratic ideals instilled since childhood via

political socialization are bound to produce democracies

through freedom-loving citizens. "Vox populi vox Dei!"



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