Consolidation and Comparative Political Culture Research: Some Methodological Considerations
Democratic consolidation in postcommunist societies has brought about a spectacular renaissance in comparative political culture research. One of its pioneers, Gabriel A. Almond, has already identified a “return to political culture” (1994). Larry Diamond also emphasizes, albeit cautiously, the central importance of civil society as a factor in democratic consolidation: “Although many contemporary theorists are strangely determined to avoid the term, I believe that these elements of the consolidation process encompass a shift in political culture” (Diamond, 1996: 33). Robert Dahl proves more willing to accept the significance of cultural factors when he points out “the crucial place of democratic beliefs and democratic culture” (1995: 10) for the prospects of consolidation in postauthoritarian or postcommunist societies. For years, debate on theory and methodology has been all but gridlocked, and scholars have been engaged in highly abstract disputes over the analytical relevance of the concept of “political culture” in explaining political change. Now there is fierce competition among international research networks for access to the latest data on political orientations and trends in the political culture of postcommunist societies.1 The time lapse between gathering data and publishing research results is growing ever shorter, and the race to keep up with the dynamics of political change in Eastern Europe has increased both the rivalry between scholars and the danger of superficial or speculative interpretation.
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