Introduction: Political culture is the embodiment of people’s orientation towards political actions within a particular political system. On the other hand, democracy is understood to be a way of life. It is understood not as a set of political institutions and procedures but also as a continuing, creative and open-ended cultural process. Thus, in the formation, development, and functioning of a democratic system of government, the elements of a civic political culture are always functional. In Bangladesh, the political culture lacks virtues necessary for democratic development. Here, the people lack mutual trust and participatory orientation, the political environment is not conducive to free political communication, people have no confidence on government and political institutions. The political activists lack partisan feelings. In these circumstances, the prospects of democratic development in the country is unlikely in the near future.
Concept of political culture: In general, political culture means the cultural milieu to which political behavior takes place. It consists of values, beliefs and attitudes of the people pertaining to the politics of their respective society. According to Almond and Verba, political culture means the frequency of different kinds of cognitive, affective and evaluative orientations toward the political system in general, its input and output aspects, and the self as political actor.
According to Robert A. Dahl, the salient features of political culture are
– Orientation to problem-solving; are they pragmatic or rationalistic?
– Orientation to collective action; are they cooperative or non-cooperative?
– Orientation to the political system; are they allegiance or alienated?
– Orientation to other people; are they trustful or distrustful?
So, the basic concept of the political culture approach is orientation. This orientation may be of three types : (a) cognitive orientation: (b) orientation; (c) evaluative orientation.
Democratic political culture and the politics in Bangladesh :
There is a close relationship between the political culture of a society and development of democracy in it. Democracy, as a system of government, is greatly affected by the cultural environment into which it is introduced. Robert D. Putnam discussed four features of the civic political cultures of regions in which democratic government worked well.
1. Civic engagement, the expectations that individuals and groups are alive
to the interest of others;
2. A high degree of political equality, defined as a social context in which
horizontal relationships of reciprocity and cooperation predominate over
vertical relationships of authority and dependence.
3. High level of solidarity, trust and tolerance enabling citizens to cooperate with different others for the sake of developing public goods.
4. Dense and overlapping associational life developing the skills of cooperation and habit of shared responsibility. So, a democratic political culture involves—
(i) Mutual trust among the citizens and an integrated national political identity;
(ii) a sense of national pride in the political system;
(iii) a felling of free political communication;
(iv) partisan feelings, not indifference;
(v) existence of participatory beliefs and perceived ability to participate;
(vi) people’s confidence in government and political institutions, and
(vii)homogeneity and plurality of culture.
In light with the above mentioned criteria of the democratic/civic political culture, the basic characteristics or features of the political culture of Bangladesh may be outlined as under:
A. Distrust and disintegration: Mutual trust involves the extent to which members of a political system have trust and confidence in their fellow political actors. In Bangladesh, politicians lack mutual trust and thus the party in power is always unwilling and mind it insecure to turn over governmental power to their opponents. Thus, there is always a host of tension and frustration among politicians. Our politicians lack the belief in the fundamental trustworthiness of those involved in politics and a sense of belongingness in the same political community which results into fragmentation and disunity. Thus, peaceful competition and alteration of power have been replaced by agitation, boycott of election, vote-rigging etc.
B. Restricted political communication: The participation of ordinary people in democratic political process requires that they must have the feelings that it is safe to do so. For this, there should have a unrestricted communication process which involve-
- A free press media:
- Interest groups free from governmental and party control:
- Regular, free and fair elections;
- Effective law and order situation.
In our country, the process of political communication is very restricted. Here, the people can not express their views due to threat of political goons, harassment by the party in power, fear of attack from opponents and so on. Journalists are being severely attacked by political activists. However, since 1990, elections are being held regularly enabling the people to express their opinion freely.
C. Lack of partisan feelings: democratic partisanship implies partisan feelings and not indifference. It implies that people must have convictions and feelings about the proper cause of political action, supporting some groups and opposing others. In Bangladesh, the partisanship is very hostile which jeopardizes the willingness to accept the opposition. Thus, partisanship result into frequent intra-party and inter-party clashes.
D. Lack of participatory belief and capacity to participate: A democratic political culture should consist of a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, perceptions and like that support participation. In Bangladesh, the norms of participation are not widespread. For this, institutional change in the direction of fostering participation is not effective. Even most of the individual do not know that they ought to participate and they do not know how to participate. Here, the participation means only to vote in elections. Particularly, the political culture of rural masses may be termed as parochial.
E. Lack of people’s confidence in government : People’s confidence in government and political institutions is an important criterion of developed democracy. Here, people’s support and confidence may be centered around three areas : disillusionment
1. with politicians;
2. with political parties; and
3. with political institutions.
In Bangladesh, the level of people’s confidence in government, politicians, effectivity of policies and other political-administrative and political institutions and services is very low. Politicians and administrators are so corrupted that people always try to refrain
themselves from any contract as well as intevation with them.
F. National pride: National pride is an important element of political culture that unites individuals and makes patriots. The people of Bangladesh feel proud of their national flag and national anthem. They also have great respect for their Bengali language and nationality.
Above and related discussion of the political culture of Bangladesh showed that it is not developed. Here, the independent and autonomous growth of political culture is limited due to poverty, illiteracy and social prejudices. Even the ideological commitment of political activists and institutions is not firm which results in frequent fragmentation of parties, changing parties and alliances by individuals and groups etc. Besides, due to people’s ignorance and lack of proper political orientation, political leaders can play a significant role in creating political orientation among the masses to suit their future needs and development.