Britain: Political Culture and Political Socialization


1.Political Culture: An Introduction

Put simply, a political culture can be defined as the attitudes and beliefs that people hold about their political system. To quote Dennis Kavanagh, the source of the definition provided in your book, it is a “shorthand expression to denote the emotional and attitudinal environment within which the political system operates”. The political culture defines what is considered to be legitimate political activity and the individuals role within the system. The political culture serves as a filter through which individuals perceive their government and their role within the system. Variance between p.c. of US and China, England and Northern Ireland.
Political culture of a country is the result of the combination of the views held by the individual citizens. Of course, this will vary from individual to individual and also from group to group, so one should not presume that all will follow the defined political culture, but it is a general tool for analysis. The political culture of a country will reflect its past and provide a determining influence on how its future evolves. Various ways of measuring political culture.

I. Three types of Political Culture
Almond and Verba and the civic culture (1965). Offered three different types of ways in which the individual is involved in the political process : parochial, subject and participant. Will vary from system to system. A parochial culture is one that lacks a specific political system, and there is no real role for the individual within the process. This could be regarded as pre-political. In contemporary times, no real parochial cultures exist on national levels, yet pockets of parochialism persist. For example, if you were to have an autocratic government in a capital city, this may have no relevance to the lives of the citizens living in isolated rural areas, or older people who simply are completely isolated from the political process
In a subject political culture, the individual is aware of the specialized political system, is affected by its systems (ex. Paying taxes, serving in the military) and accept the legitimacy of the system. Yet, the his/her role in the political process is a very limited and passive one - it is largely limited to conforming to the decisions made by the state. Ex. Non-voters and non-participants in the US, citizens of authoritarian gov’ts.
In as participant political culture grants the citizens specific political roles, with multiple opportunities for participation. Ex. Voting, campaign work, interest group activity.
It should be noted that the above refers to groups or individuals within a political system, all political systems will be a mix of all three types of group cultures. However, they will vary in their composition within the system - for example in an industrial democracy such as Great Britain or the United States, we would expect somewhere in the range of 60-70% of the population to be participants - this group would be informed about politics, make political demands on the system, and give their support to different political parties. Within a industrial democracy, roughly 20-30% of the population would simply be subjects, while they passively obey laws and recognize the existence of a government, they do not exercise their franchise or get involved in politics in any other way. Finally, about 10% of the population would be hardly aware of government and its policies, could perhaps be rural people living in remote areas, these would be the parochials.

The percentage of people that belong to each group will vary from system to system and from country to country. For example, in an authoritarian industrial system like the former Soviet Union, a vast majority of the population would simply be subjects, they would be aware of the government and its functions, but would have little ability to generate inputs into the system. Few would be either parochials or participants - these groups would account for perhaps 10% of the population each. In a preindustrial society, a majority (perhaps 60%) of the population would be parochials. While there would be a small group of those who participate in the decision making process (perhaps 10%), and a larger (perhaps 30%) group of people who are directly affected by government policies - employees, workers, independent farmers, etc who are affected by taxation and the like; the majority will be rural, isolated, illiterate and have little knowledge or involvement in national governmental policy inputs or outputs.

II. Fundamental Political Values
Another way in which one can analyze political culture is based on the degree of unity within a society based on its fundamental political values and of the legitimacy of the system as a whole. In a consensual political culture, the vast majority of the citizens tend to agree on the appropriate means of making decisions and tend to agree on what the major problems in society, if not on the specifics of how to solve these problems. In Conflictual political cultures, citizens are more sharply divided on the legitimacy of the political system, the major problems confronting it, and how to solve these problems.

One of the most interesting things about the United Kingdom is that it seems to be a mix of these two cultures, on the British mainland, it is clear that there is a consensual political culture. Most citizens would describe themselves as political moderates and while minor parties exist, most will vote for either Labour or the Conservative party. While the two parties may differ on the means best suited to solve the problems that confront society, and this difference has narrowed significantly over the past few years, neither questions the basic legitimacy of the political system.
However, when the focus turns to Northern Ireland, we see more of a Conflictual political culture, with two political subcultures divided along ethno-religious lines. Each group is exposed to different patterns of learning about political activities and this manifests itself not only in the sort of violence that we spoke of earlier, but in support for very different political entities.
For example since the 1980s, five different political parties have contested the national elections in Northern Ireland, two of them (the official Unionist and Democratic Unionists) stood for retaining the Protestant domination over the province, with the Democratic Unionists standing for opposition to any compromise with the catholics. Two (Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party) appealed to catholic voters, with Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA advocating both armed (until 1994) and electoral action aimed at unifying the North with the South. The SDLP stood for negotiated compromise between the Brits, the two communities in Northern Ireland and the Republic. There was also the Alliance party which sought to appeal to moderate forces in both communities in an effort to moderate the conflict.
The alliance party has received limited support from either side, with the populations largely voting along religious lines. Protestants have voted overwhelmingly for the two Protestant parties (over 90% over the past several elections) and Catholics have done likewise (just under 90% during the same time period). What is even more telling is that the two extremes Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists received roughly 25% of the vote of each of the two respective groups. What we see in Northern Ireland is a Conflictual political culture and one that differs substantially from the rest of the UK.

2. The Political Culture of the United Kingdom

I. Legitimacy of the System
In terms of the UK as a whole, the vast majority of the population accepts the legitimacy of the system. Survey’s show that only about 5% of the population believe that the system must be radically changed by revolutionary action. While nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales may seek changes, these demands come in the form of separate parliaments for their region, not a complete demand for change. This legitimacy is demonstrated by the fact that the police force in the UK is one third smaller of its equivalents in France, Germany or the US. Street violence, assassinations, etc are almost solely the purview of the extremists in the Northern Irish conflict and have not spread to other groups - while the IRA has conducted operations outside of Northern Ireland, they are virtually the only group that has resorted to violence on the mainland.
This legitimacy is not synonymous with complacency. According to opinion polls, over 90% of the public would be willing to sign their name to a protest petition (same poll revealed that 83% of Americans would be willing to do the same), almost half would be willing to attend a lawful demonstration (62% in the US). However, the Brits state that they are less likely to resort to more direct action than their American counterparts. Only 29% stated that they would participate in an unofficial strike (39% in the US) and only 12% stated that they would occupy buildings or factories (30% in the US). This indicates the legitimacy of the government in the sense that a vast majority of the population would be willing to accept an unpopular decision without resorting to unconventional or illegal means of protest.

The causes of this high degree of legitimacy have been debated by British politicians for centuries. It is difficult to argue that comes as a result of the successes of the parliamentary model in delivering social and economic change for its citizens - in the time since WWII the British government has been less successful in promoting economic growth than many of its neighbors on the European continent (its GDP per person in terms of purchasing power parity is about 10% less than France and 15% less than Germany).
One might be tempted to conclude that such symbols as the monarchy might play a part - but it is possible to argue that the popularity of the Queen, such as it is and presently it is at its lowest recorded level, derives from the fact that the royals are non-political, and that the acceptance of the monarchy is a function, rather than a cause of political legitimacy.
In looking for the answer, the twin impulses of habit and tradition seem to be likely candidates. In a survey asking why people support the government, 77% answered that it is “the best form of government that we know”, this echoes a statement made by Winston Churchill:
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
II. Role of Tradition
The importance of tradition in Britain is difficult to overstate. While the monarch may not be the fountainhead of legitimacy within British society, the pomp and ceremony, the “theatrical show of society” does provide notions of a link to a common past. The pageantry of a royal occasion, such as a wedding or a coronation is something to behold. While the monarchs exercise almost no substantive political power, and as mentioned above this may be the source of popularity, the institution does remain in place as a reminder of Britain’s glorious past.

This role of tradition is also emphasized by such events as the opening of parliament, the use of the staff to quiet unruly house members by the speaker and the presence of the many landmarks of British history.

II. Deference Toward Authority
The British system is unitary in form, with most of the political power residing in London - though this may change with the referendi held in 1997. It is also based on parliamentary supremacy that exists without a pattern of judicial review. This differs significantly from the American system, where power is divided among the various branches, there is a codified formal constitution and judicial review exists to promote accountability by the executive and the legislature. While this pattern may be democratic in form, yet the overall result has been called a system “of government of the people, for the people, with, but not by, the people.” (Lord Amery)
In the United States, great emphasis is placed on the constitution and its amendments. This is seen as the as the foundation of American life and a limitation on the power of government to interfere in the lives of the citizenry. As I have mentioned before, Britain has no formal single such document. In the words of one former high court judge: “In the constitution of this country, there are no guarenteed or absolute rights. The safeguard of British liberty is in the good sense of the people and in the system of representative and responsible government which has evolved.” This places a tremendous amount of trust in individuals and institution, an amount that is almost inconceivable to outsiders. Also reflects the deference and trust within British society.
- mention that this is a two way street.

This does not mean that the government has limitless authority and that the British people would passively accept any policy. Rather, the limits on governmental authority are less formal than in the United States. Societal norms prevent political censorship (exceptions - official secrets act, press bans) or restrictions on freedom of expression. The important point is that the British people are largely prepared to accept that their government acts with good faith and is likely to use good sense in the creation and application of its laws.
There tends to be a basic belief in the UK that society is organic, with all having their role in society and being conscious of this role. Your text quotes Walter Bagehot, a nineteenth century writer on British politics, as calling Britain “a deferential nation..” where “certain persons are by common consent agreed to be wiser than others, and their opinion is, by consent, to rank for much more than its numerical value”. This is a statement that would be considered scandalous in the United States, but is not completely at odds with present day Britain. The presence of the House of Lords, a body which is certainly secondary in importance to the elected House of Commons, but is not completely irrelevant, the awarding of peerages and titles, the presence of the royal family, and the enormous powers of parliament all echo this nature.
It is also worth noting that trust in public institutions is very high. Gallup polls in the early 1990s expressed high public support for official institutions, none of the official elements mentioned - the police force, the army, the civil service, the legal system, etc. - saw less than 10% of the respondents expressing no confidence in their role and legitimacy.

III. Consensual Nature
As mentioned earlier, political culture in Britain, with the afore-mentioned glaring exception of Northern Ireland is organized toward consensus. It is also a culture oriented toward co-operation. In some countries, such as France and Italy, co-operation is held in less esteem than the continued maintenance of individual and group identity. Meaning that it is seen as more important to be seen to be correct and to stand up for one’s ideals than to get along with others. Political scientists often point to Britain and the United States (?) as examples of countries where compromise and co-operation are emphasized as being possible without the loss of personal worth.
- Canada
This is particularly operative in Britian where the culture (soccer games aside) seems to be almost based on the avoidance of conflict in the personal life. British reserve out of a terror of saying the wrong thing and being willing to go along to get along.
Another feature that bears some attention is the high degree of patriotism within British life. Surveys tend to assert that there is a sense of pride and confidence in being British. Rather remarkable in light of the set-backs that Britain has undergone since the second world war and the shrinking of its empire. Vast majority describe themselves as being proud of being British (only 4% stated that they were not at all proud to be British).
- Falklands, Hong Kong
- affinity for Northern Europeans, not southern europe or the EU
- links to former colonies and other english- speaking peoples, though there is a sense of horror at excesses of America, possible result of the change in power relations.
General consensus oriented with pride in self and country.

IV. Expectations of Government.

While the British seem to place more trust in government than their american “cousins”, they also tend to have higher expectations of what duties the government should preform. In a 1990 survey, citizens of three countries were asked about services that government should provide and the British people seemed to look more favorably on governmental activism than either the American or the West Germans.
Percent of those saying that government should definitely provide:
UK FRG US
Health Care 83% 57% 40%
Decent Pensions 79% 54% 40%
Decent Housing 47% 24% 21%
Control Prices 48% 20% 19%
Reduce Income Differences 42% 22% 17%

Again, this suggests the implicit exchange in the deference that I spoke of earlier and conditions the limits of action for British political parties.

3. Conclusion
Three types of political culture - parochial, subject, participant - most brits tend to be oriented toward the last.
- legitimacy being based on tradition and habit.
- Deference and expectations greater than in the United States.
- Orientation toward co-operation.
- Next will be socialization and the media.


Political Socialization, TheMedia

A. Political Socialization
- Mention the change to the syllabus

I. Introduction and Definition
- Political socialization is the processes through which people acquire knowledge and attitudes about politics. In more common discourse we use the term socialization to refer to the way that children are introduced to, and acquire the values within their society. Political socialization refers to the distinctive political attitudes and behaviors that citizens acquire in the course of their existence. This is an ongoing process the begins with the schools and develops through adulthood, again permeable to change throughout ones life - provide the quote by Churchill. However, while some aspects will change as a person ages, others may remain an integral part of the person’s being throughout his/her life.
- Means of transmission of a political culture.
- At its most basic level people acquire images of their country (nationalism or perhaps anti-nationalism); self images of their class, gender, or ethnic groups; their religious and ideological commitments; and a basic vision of their rights and obligations within the society. This process also helps to reinforce sub-national loyalties. The earliest elements of socialization, as they are frequently reinforced throughout the course of ones life, tend to be the most durable.
- As individuals progress through life, they will also acquire knowledge of their political systems - the institutions and how they function. Perspective of how city hall works and whether or not it can be fought.
- Also, there are perspectives on current events, policies, personalities, parties. They will also play a role in the development of a belief structure with respect to the interpretation of future events.

II. Three General Points about Political Socialization
1. Political Socialization may be either direct or indirect. Direct socialization is the explicit communication of information, values, or attitudes toward politics. One example of this would be civics classes in schools or family discussions with respect to politics at the dinner table.

Indirect socialization occurs when experiences shape our political outlook. For example, if, as children we learn that attention is paid to our problems and objections, then this attitude may carry on into later life. Also, the events that we experience may will also contribute to our vision of political life.
2. Political Socialization is an ongoing process that will persist throughout our lives. While our families may create perspectives of the political system, political parties, etc. events that take place as we age will either reinforce or challenge these perspectives.. This may come through education, work experience, peer groups, etc. Our political beliefs and impression of the system as a whole may be dramatically reshaped as we pass through life.
- Find out how many people have shifted party allegiance since childhood (or earliest recorded memory of affiliation)
- Also, events may color our impressions - Vietnam War, Watergate, Profumo. These changes may be lasting, or they may only be temporal.
When these experiences cause dramatic changes into the lives of individuals, they may be called political re-socialization.
3. Political Socialization may also be unifying or divisive in terms of how the public views the legitimacy of the system and the institutions. Sub-groups and their socialization process.

III. Sources of Political Socialization in Britain

1. Family
Family plays a crucial role in the socialization process. Transmission of information not only on the political process, but on the players within the system. For example, discussions of politics at the dinner table impact for a long period of time. Political party may be identified with the parents and their values.
- Me and Granny Beech
- Kenny
- Possibility of rebellion against family choices.
However, this is not to say that this will be the single deciding factor in the formation of the political attitudes of the individual. For example, in Britain, a survey revealed that 36% of the electorate either did not know how their parents voted, or the parents cast ballots for opposing political parties. Of this group, just over half (about 35% of the electorate) stated that they knew how their parents cast their ballots and voted the same way.
However, it is important to note that the parents provide the first perspective that people acquire about politics and partisan affiliations. Also, an interest in politics, or perhaps an indifference toward the subject is also transmitted through the family.

2. Schools
Where we learn the workings of the political system and values concerning the selection of decision makers and decision making.
- Class elections, one person one vote.
- In Britain there has historically been an inequality in education. Until WWII, the minimum age for school leaving was 14, it is now 16, at this point roughly half of the students end their academic careers. The system is constructed toward the academic elite. Within the state comprehensive schools, there are three potential tracks: an academic course with the end goal of university; a course that passes students at an advance high school level (roughly 2 years of American University); and a basic education that ends at 16 (roughly 2/3 of the population).

With respect to Universities, the tuition is paid by the state, and students from less affluent family backgrounds may receive grants for living expenses as well. However, this system is geared toward the academic elite, only about one student in four will actually enter higher education. People with education are equally or perhaps even more likely to vote Labour than their counterparts with less of a degree of formal education - populists like Thatcher, Churchill, etc.
Also related to occupation - those in the civil service, education are more likely to support Labour than those engaged in business. Will come back to this thought in a moment.
Mentioned the public (private) schools the other day - comprise less than 10% of the British students, but were the historic breeding ground for British leaders. Presently, less than ½ of the Mps have public school educations and the last five leaders - Heath, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major all attended state schools - do not know about Blair. Yet, disproportionate number of Conservative MP s still come from the public schools, however their leaders must have the common touch.
Important role of education in inculcating the basic values of the society. Those with higher educations tend to be more knowledgeable about the political process and more likely to participate. Also important in determining the occupation and resulting social class, which also play a large role in the socialization process.

3. Work
Strong relationship between occupation and class. No longer hereditary peers, but now divided along occupational lines. Book asserts a “strong relationship between class and partisan support”, with the middle classes voting conservative and the working class voting Labour. This is a valid point, but it is important not to overstate this relationship. For example, in the 1992 election, 34% of those described as working class voted for the Conservative party (45% voted for Labour) and 23% of the middle class voted for the Labour Party (54% voted for the Conservatives. Important to note that the changes to the British economy - decline of the industrial and rise of the service sectors - have changed the nature of work. Civil servants, teachers, etc. may be middle class but their interests lay with the Labour party. Those who are middle-class union members are more likely to vote conservative than Labour.
- Work also provides an important socializing experience, who are your peers? What does your job entail? How does increased/decreased state spending impact upon this job.
4. Peers
Who are your peers? Chums from school, work, other interests? Affect of shaping and interpreting news and events.
5. Location
- Housing: Own home or council housing
- Rural/Urban
- Location within the UK
- All will impact upon the interests and perceptions of the individual.
6. The Media
- Transmission of the news and what is deemed important.
- Shaping and reinforcement of perceptions
- Discuss in detail in a moment.

IV. Conclusions about Socialization
- How we view the world, political system, issues and players

- Cumulative process
- Begins in childhood and fundamental role of family in activism and partisanship
- education, work, class, peers, location, media
- complex process of inter-related factors - family, occupation, spouse, peers
- Ask where they get their political information?

B. The Media
- News media shapes our views of the world around us, as discussed in an earlier section one of the most important elements of political socialization. Brings events from far away places into awareness. Yet, it often comes under fire - accused, depending on who is making the accusation, of being too oriented toward sensationalism, too intrusive, biased (both sides will make accusations in that score), etc. Criticism of the media is seemingly ubiquitous, yet it still accounts for our primary view of the world outside immediate experiences.
- It should be noted that the media is not a monolith, rather it is the collection of a number of different and disparate sources. Especially with the rise of the Internet (ability to get the 2 Times’ and most other publications over the net, chat rooms, web pages, etc) we have numerous sources at our disposal to supply information.

The British Media
1. National in nature
- Geography and centered in London (Fleet St .)
- Yet, local papers exist that provide primarily local news.

2. Tabloids (especially relevant in Britain)
- Sun, News of the World (two papers with the highest circulation)
Serious Newspapers - Times, Guardian, Financial Times (equivalent of WSJ), Economist (magazine)
3. Partisan nature
- Most have obvious partisan leanings, if not complete support, for political parties. Also tend to be less abashed about this than the American papers.
- Majority (Sun, Telegraph, Times, Mail, Express, etc.) lean toward the conservatives. Guardian and Mirror lean toward Labour. Again, somewhat different from the American papers. Left assumes that it is the conservative nature of the Press Barons (Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black most notably) that colours their coverage. Both are virulently conservative and not shy about their beliefs. Differs from the American example in that these corporations have distinct faces.
4. Electronic Media
- Less openly partisan than the print media. Neither is allowed to broadcast paid political advertisements, expected to grant equal time , and carry agreed number of party broadcasts during elections.
- BBC - Crown corporation (explain) established in 1927.
- Different mandate than commercial networks.
- Education, information and entertainment
- ITV began in 1954.
- Commercial network
- Two (BBC 1 and ITV) control majority of British television. Cable available, but less pervasive than in the US.
5. Political Impact of the British Media
- Tabloids, largest in circulation, tend to focus on entertainment and scandal and less on hard news.
- Royals, Celebrities, Spice Girls
- Immediacy of television and its ability to shape perceptions.
- Gulf War (Falklands) vs. Vietnam in terms of coverage
- Behavior of Royals and Political Figures (Edward VIII vs Present)
- Imagine impact of tv during trench warfare of WWI
- Affects of terrorist actions and their trials

- Ability to support the legitimacy of a government or system. Crisis or question brings about input from the key players, thereby legitimizing their status.
- May also help to whip up support for policy (Sun and the Falklands).
- Serves to reinforce existing attitudes or shape new perceptions.
- Impacts on which leaders emerge - telegenic?
- Thatcher, Blair, Wilson, Kinnock? Tell Biden story
- Foot, Douglas-Home, Major
- Image vs substance, tell story of Nixon/Kennedy
What do we expect of the media?

- One thing that we expect here from the media is objectivity. Yet, is this possible? British are less coy.
- What is relevant? Personal lives tend not to play a large role in British politics, perhaps because they have the royals as a distraction.
- What is private? Especially relevant over the past week.
- Next will deal with the rules of the game - the uncodified constitution, electoral system - and the players within - the political parties and interest groups.