Who am I?

I’m a Georgia/Russia foreign media analyst, social scientist, and author living in the Washington DC area. This blog is for thinking out loud about what people believe and feel about politics. If this is on your mind too, let me know.

What is political culture?

It involves many things, but this blog looks mostly at what people in a society believe and feel about the political system they live in. That includes political values, national symbols, the way people remember their country’s past, and how they see its future.

Do people believe their system is fair? Does it represent all citizens, if they think it should?

What do people expect from their leaders? Do they trust them and accept their authority? Do the people feel protected from threats?

September 11th, 2001

September 11th, 2001 (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

What is expected from citizens? That they should vote, blow the whistle on corruption, help people in need, not throw their trash on the ground?

What do people believe about who has the power in their society? Do they think the rulers have it all, or that citizens have some power of their own? Is it provided to the people in a constitution, or do they have to “take” power by protesting?

Do people believe that the laws apply the same to all, and that the justice system is fair?

Are the people proud of their country’s past, or maybe ashamed of parts of it?

How are all of these things spoken about in public, in schools, in the media, in campaign speeches?

Do people believe it is safe to express different ideas or criticize their leaders?

All of these things are important, because they influence what citizens and leaders do. People vote if they believe it makes a difference, or if they will feel guilty for not voting. Leaders presumably try to keep their campaign promises if they believe that’s something they must do to be re-elected. People can withdraw their support for leaders who appear incompetent in a crisis or are caught lying. They might get angry when a leader takes a different side on a sensitive issue like abortion or same-sex marriage. And they might rely on the police and court system when they want justice, instead of seeking it elsewhere.

Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street (Photo credit: DoctorTongs)

For me, it’s even more interesting to look at how political culture changes. It’s always evolving. These days, universal suffrage is taken for granted in the US, though it was originally only white male landowners who had the right to vote. Change can happen when people begin to see things in a different way. Slavery used to seem natural and justified to many in the US and other places, but then abolitionists started challenging those assumptions, pointing out how wrong slavery was. Sometimes, major beliefs in a political culture can change in a more dramatic way, as they have since 9/11. Think about how those terrorist attacks and the global war on terror (GWOT) have changed things in America, where people’s expectations about civil liberties and privacy are concerned.

This website will look at these things mostly in the US and in other countries I’ve studied—Russia and the Republic of Georgia. In the future you might see information about other countries, too, so be sure to check back.

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