The Political Psychology of the Czech Nation: While the Czech Republic Has the Necessary Democratic "Hardware" Installed (Democratic Institutions), We Are Still Struggling to Install the Right "Software" (Social Capital, Democratic Mentality, and Civic Society)

By Klicperova-Baker, Martina | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

The Political Psychology of the Czech Nation: While the Czech Republic Has the Necessary Democratic "Hardware" Installed (Democratic Institutions), We Are Still Struggling to Install the Right "Software" (Social Capital, Democratic Mentality, and Civic Society)


Klicperova-Baker, Martina, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


A little less than a century ago, the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, expressed that two generations or sixty years would pass before the newly-constitued democratic state of Czechoslovakia saw real democracy. Does the same hold true today for our twenty-year-old democracy?

The publisher of Pritomnost and this journal, M. J. Stransky, once provocatively noted that "Czechs do not want democracy." He articulated this sentiment throughout our first free decade in articles that he published in Pritomnost. Now we stand at the end of our second democratic decade, and we must recapitulate again. Do Czechs want democracy or not? Though many of Stransky's arguments still apply today, they still do not convince me that the situation begets such an overwhelming conclusion.

Do we have the right soil for democratic growth? How deeply is our totalitarian past rooted in our democratic present? What are our future prospects?

Some time ago now, my colleague I. K. Feierabend and I attempted to "diagnose" Czech pro-democratic tendencies. We sent probes into the psychology of democratism in Central and Eastern Europe, and compared representative samples of (several thousand) Czechs with Slovaks, Bulgarians and Belarusians. We sought to assess people's familiarity with the mindset necessary for democratic functioning: a) civic political culture b) civic ethos (the morals of civic society) and c) civic nationalism.

Civic Political Culture

Civic political culture mainly relates to a group's insight into political events, political convictions, active participation in interest groups, respect of laws, and ability to resist feeling estranged during difficult times. First and foremost, political culture applies to the people of a state, not to elected politicians. In accordance with these criteria, the Czech representative sample did fairly well. Czechs answered as one would expect from sophisticated and democratically-thoughtful citizens. Their democratism was defined by realistic reservation--it neither reflected the Belarusian's uncritical enthusiasm for democracy nor the disappointed estrangement found in Bulgarians and Slovakians.

Sociological research has affirmed the Czech's reserved sobriety towards democracy. The Public Opinion Research Center (CVVM) discovered that Czechs share a strong dissatisfaction with how democracy functions in their country; this does not mean, however, that they do not want it. Concurrently, (in similarly high numbers) Czechs agree with Churchill's opinion that democracy is the smallest of all evils. This conflict is motivational in nature, and still gives hope for the future.

Our study proved another fundamentally Czech characteristic: moral and immoral inflexibility. Czech inflexibility manifested as the inclination to rebel against the government and the reluctance to respect laws (even ones established under democracy). Evidently, Czechs did not acknowledge the responsibility that is required by living under the rule of law.

Civic Ethos and Decency

A major aspect of pro-democratic culture is civic ethos: civic virtues and morals. In Anglo-Saxon culture, this is referred to as civility. It includes decency (in the deeper sense of the word), honesty, trust, understanding the balance between freedom and responsibility, and tolerance to those who differ in social status, ethnic origin, lifestyle, etc.

In our research, Czech responses depicted a fairly benevolent, tolerant and trustworthy society. Czechs were more trustworthy of their fellow citizens than people in Belarus and Bulgaria were of their respective country mates. Czechs also showed greater personal responsibility, less inclination towards state paternalism and yes, even more diligence. They exhibited a high level of tolerance towards women's emancipation and homosexuality, but not towards people of different social groups. And even though Czech citizens did not exhibit great respect for law, they expressed a wish for stricter laws regarding certain social groups.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Political Psychology of the Czech Nation: While the Czech Republic Has the Necessary Democratic "Hardware" Installed (Democratic Institutions), We Are Still Struggling to Install the Right "Software" (Social Capital, Democratic Mentality, and Civic Society)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.