Political Culture and Political Change in Communist States

Political Culture and Political Change in Communist States

Political Culture and Political Change in Communist States

Political Culture and Political Change in Communist States

Excerpt

The peculiar relevance of the study of 'political culture' in relation to change and continuity in Communist states lies in the fact that the goals of total political, economic and cultural transformation have been pursued by ruling Communist Parties in societies with the most diverse historical and cultural traditions. Before taking the discussion any further, it will be as well to make clear at the outset what the authors of the present work take 'political culture' to mean, since this term, like 'culture' itself, has been defined in all too great a variety of ways. It will be understood as the subjective perception of history and politics, the fundamental beliefs and values, the foci of identification and loyalty, and the political knowledge and expectations which are the product of the specific historical experience of nations and groups. 'Political culture', it should be added, is not divorced from a 'culture' in the widest social sense. On the contrary, it is closely related to cultural values and orientations more generally. It focuses attention, however, on that part of a culture which bears relevance to politics.

The seven Communist societies included in the present study have been chosen partly because of the great diversity in pre-Communist experience which they represent and partly because they embrace all of the distinctive 'models' of Communism which have been produced in recent times. (This naturally raises the question of the possible relevance of the former fact to the latter.) The countries selected are: the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The first two have in common the fact that they were great imperial states, but in religious and cultural tradition they could scarcely have been further apart, the one being the centre of Eastern Orthodoxy and the other the upholder of Confucianism. Cuba is utterly different again, in historical experience as well as size, having been part of the Spanish empire and later coming under strong North American influence. Among the East European countries, the redrawing of boundaries after two World Wars has been such that even within the same state (and in some cases the same nation) the peoples

I am very grateful to Michael Lessnoff and Alan Angell for their valuable and constructive criticism of a previous draft of this chapter.

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