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UNIT-4 Approaches to Studying Comparative Politics: Political Culture Notes (CGP)


  • Comparative politics involves the comparison of different political systems.

  • The discipline of comparative politics is considered to be as old as political theory.

  • Aristotle is recognized as the father of comparative politics for conducting a comparative study of 158 constitutions.

  • The nature and scope of comparative politics can be divided into two phases: traditional comparative politics and modern comparative politics.

  • The traditional phase refers to the period up to World War 1, characterized by early comparative studies and Aristotle's classification of constitutions.

  • The modern phase refers to the period up to World War 2, marked by advancements in comparative analysis and the emergence of new approaches and theories in the field.

(i) Traditional Comparative Politics

  • Traditional comparative politics had a narrow scope, focusing mainly on the study of constitutions in the western world.

  • The traditional approach excluded the study of political systems in non-western countries and had limited basis for comparison.

  • The focus was primarily on government and forms of government, rather than a comprehensive study of politics.

  • The method used in traditional comparative politics was the legal constitutional method.

  • Limitations of the traditional approach included narrow scope, static nature, lack of comprehensive comparison, and an ethnocentric and parochial perspective.

(ii) Modern Comparative Politics

  • Modern comparative politics emerged after World War II, driven by the process of decolonization and the rise of third world countries.

  • There was a recognition that studying constitutions alone was insufficient and that understanding socio-cultural factors in these societies was equally important.

  • The study of developing areas coincided with the behavioral movements, which facilitated the study of modern comparative politics.

  • The need to study new areas and the desire for innovative approaches motivated scholars to explore new methods and approaches in comparative politics.

Political Cultural Approach

Political culture refers to the norms, values, and political orientations of people within a society, specifically related to the political system.

  • Different thinkers have described political culture in various ways, such as the overall pattern of beliefs, attitudes, and values towards the political system.

  • Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba conducted the first systematic study of political culture in their book "The Civic Culture."

  • Political culture can be understood at the national, local, and global levels.

(i) Ronald Inglehart - Post Materialism

  • Ronald Inglehart, an American political scientist, focused on the correlation between political culture and political systems.

  • Postmodernism: Inglehart popularized the term "postmodernism," which refers to a shift in individual values from materialistic to individualistic values based on autonomy and self-expression.

  • Inglehart's book "The Silent Revolution" analyzed changes in Western societies, where post-materialist values increased over time, particularly among the younger generation.

  • Scarcity Hypothesis: Inglehart proposed that individuals prioritize materialist goals until their basic needs are fulfilled, and only then do they pursue post-materialist goals.

  • Socialization Hypothesis: The shift from materialist to post-materialist values typically occurs during adulthood, with individuals who have experienced economic scarcity prioritizing material needs and those who are affluent focusing on non-materialistic values.

  • Inglehart drew inspiration from Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, suggesting that as basic material needs are fulfilled, individuals shift their focus to non-materialistic values.

(ii) Subculture - Dennis Kavanagh

  • Dennis Kavanagh, a British political analyst, introduced the concept of subculture within political culture.

  • Subculture refers to the distinctive identity and behaviors of diverse social groups and communities toward a particular political system.

  • Kavanagh identified four bases for subculture development:

    1. Elite versus Mass Culture: Reflects attitudinal differences between the political elite and the general population.

    2. Cultural Divisions within Elites: Focuses on differences between different elites within the same or different political cultures.

    3. Generational Model: Recognizes distinct political cultures associated with different generations, with political culture evolving over time as new generations replace old ones.

    4. Social Structure: Considers subcultures emerging from social divisions within society.

These different subculture divisions offer new avenues for investigation and understanding of political culture's impact on the political system.

Antonio Gramsci Concept

Antonio Gramsci and His Contribution

  • Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist intellectual and politician.

  • He refined Marxist thought and was a vocal critic of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

  • Gramsci's work, titled 'Prison Notebooks,' is considered one of the most important contributions to political theory.

  • His work covers various topics such as religion, fascism, Italian history, nationalism, civil society, and popular culture.

  • Gramsci is best known for his theory of cultural hegemony.

Cultural Hegemony and Power Relations

  • Cultural hegemony is the concept developed by Gramsci to explain power relations in capitalist societies.

  • The bourgeoisie class uses ideology as a potent tool to maintain power and dominance.

  • They create an illusion of values that serve their own interests, which gradually become the prevailing common sense among the masses.

  • Cultural hegemony is produced and reproduced through religious, social, and political institutions in the superstructure.

Gramsci's Refinement of Marxist Theory

  • Gramsci's contribution refined Marx's theory of history, moving away from crude economic determinism.

  • He emphasized the need to challenge both the economic base and the superstructure for meaningful change.

  • The superstructure is divided into civil society and the state, together forming the integral state.

Role of the State and Civil Society

  • The purpose of the state is to act as an instrument of capitalism and perpetuate the rule of the capitalist class.

  • The state represents coercive force against those who challenge capitalism.

  • Civil society works to perpetuate the domination of the capitalist class and acts as a cushion or shock absorber.

  • Civil society generates attraction and consent for the bourgeoisie way of life through the power of hegemony.

Intellectuals and Their Role

  • Intellectuals play a crucial role in maintaining the system by generating values and lifestyles that support the dominant class.

  • Gramsci classified intellectuals into organic intellectuals and traditional intellectuals.

  • Organic intellectuals are organically linked with the dominant class and help maintain the culture of capitalism.

  • Traditional intellectuals existed before the new dominant class emerged but can still support the existing system.

Implications and Influence of Gramsci's Ideas

  • Gramsci's ideas have far-reaching political and practical implications.

  • He warned of the limited possibilities of direct revolutionary struggle for control of the means of production.

  • Gramsci's ideas have influenced popular education practices, research methods, and debates about civil society.

Putman Concept of Social Capital

  • The term "social capital" was originally coined by Judson Hanifan, but Putnam expanded on this concept in comparative politics.

  • Social capital refers to the networks of relationships among people in a society that enable effective functioning.

  • It includes interpersonal relationships, shared identity, understanding, norms, values, trust, cooperation, and tangible and intangible resources.

  • Putnam argues that successful accumulation of social capital leads to a well-functioning economic system and high political integration in a region.

  • In the United States, there has been a decline in social capital, leading to various social problems.

  • Putnam discusses the decline of community involvement in American societies since the 1960s in his book "Bowling Alone."

  • Social networks have value, and the externalities produced by social capital have implications for the wider community.

  • Dense networks within families, organizations, or religions contribute to positive behavior, trust, and the creation of healthy community bonds.

  • Putnam distinguishes between bonding social capital (links between those who share something in common) and bridging social capital (links between different groups), emphasizing the importance of bridging social capital in connecting people in a diverse society.

  • Putnam provides examples of reduced civic participation in the United States, such as declining association membership, club meeting attendance, church-related group membership, socialization, and family activities.

  • Putnam's work on social capital has been praised as a significant contribution to the study of political culture in American society.

  • Similar declines in civic participation have also been observed in European countries.

  • There is some criticism regarding the positive contribution of active participation in civic regions.


  • Political culture is crucial in understanding a political system and its functioning.

  • It encompasses the beliefs, values, norms, attitudes, and behaviors of individuals within a society regarding politics.

  • Political culture influences political participation, decision-making processes, and the overall stability of a political system.

  • Subculture refers to a group within a larger society that shares distinctive beliefs, values, and practices that set them apart from the dominant culture.

  • Subcultures can emerge based on various factors such as ethnicity, religion, social class, or political ideology.

  • They can influence political behavior and perspectives, sometimes challenging or offering alternatives to the dominant political culture.

  • Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist, introduced the concept of base and superstructure.

  • According to Gramsci, the base refers to the economic structure of society, including the relations of production and the distribution of wealth.

  • The superstructure encompasses institutions, ideologies, and cultural practices that emerge from the base and help maintain the existing social order.

  • Gramsci emphasized the role of the superstructure, particularly ideology, in legitimizing and maintaining the dominance of the ruling class.

  • Robert D. Putnam, an American political scientist, contributed to the study of political culture, focusing on social capital and its impact on democratic governance.

  • Putnam highlighted the importance of social networks, trust, cooperation, and civic engagement in building social capital and fostering effective political systems.

  • Dennis Kavanagh, a British political scientist, explored the relationship between political culture and political communication.

  • Kavanagh emphasized the role of media, political campaigns, and public opinion in shaping and reflecting political culture.

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Nice short notes

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