The Culture of Democracy:
Realizing the Self and Responsibility
The difference between governance of a society and the culture of that society is that the governance is a system, whereas the culture is a reflection on the effectiveness of that system. The expressiveness of the people of a society is going to be determined by how they are ruled; not because people from different nations are born either more or less self-expressive, but because certain forms of governance do not foster or in some cases even allow self-expression and advancement. Democracy is sort of the Holy Grail when working toward a successful community. If a particular nation successfully achieves democracy, the ...view middle of the document...
So, a balance must be maintained in which the governed and the governance both apply equal pressure and uphold certain basic principles so all institutions are legitimate in the eyes of society.
Democracy on its own cannot simply suffice to maintain consensus in society. Citizens in a democratic society have to recognize that there is going to be both intellectual and political conflict, and that compromise and tolerance are necessary. Citizens must take an active role in society and realize that democracy is less about choices between things that are absolutely right and absolutely wrong is rather about finding various ways to interpret rights and priorities within a society.
First, let’s explore Almond and Verba’s take on civic culture. The closest thing to a culture of democracy is their third and most effective form of civic culture, which they have deemed “participant”. In a participant civic culture, citizens and government actively interact to make changes, improvements, and interpretations to the political and social structure of the community. A participant culture is necessary for democracy because democratic states require the influence of the people first and foremost in order to succeed. Participant culture also requires compromise from groups. Almond and Verba say, about interest groups in society, “...these memberships are not politically cumulative but are often conflicting, thus individuals tend to moderate and combine interests in their own minds in order to reduce conflict" (8).
In Almond and Verba’s theoretical cases, interpersonal trust is paramount in establishing a truly participant civic culture. Moreover, rational participation needs to take precedent over emotional participation. That is to say, people must strive to push the issues that they feel will be necessary and beneficial to themselves and the common good rather than what they might feel is morally just; the two can and often do differ, which is one of the more difficult aspects of democracy. An example of this, if I may allow myself a tangent, is the death penalty. If one person murders another in our nation, we, by law and moral code, judge them to be in the wrong. What we struggle over, however, is the way in which we punish them. Some states upkeep the death penalty, and some do not. Do we punish murder with a righteous “eye for an eye” mentality, or do we do it with a more refined, legally sound method of trial, conviction, and long-term imprisonment? More so, if enough people feel strongly in support of the death penalty, where does democracy end and pure barbaric punishment start? Is life something that democratic process is suited to handle? The answer is not easily afforded. What the answer is, though, is sought after by the will of the people in each respective state of our country.
From that example I digress; rational participation also means setting aside one’s own agenda, wants, and beliefs in order to consider those of...