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Political Culture in Comparative Perspective
- DERYA CIHAN
Core Topics and Findings of the Research on Political Cultures
In today’s world when we refer the term political culture which has recently become a very popular concept in political science, has remarkable constructs and theories in terms of political science. In fact, it is hard to reach a consensus in the sense of definitions, theories, methods and paradigms of political culture. Political culture of a society needs to take place within the political community, as well as other political formations such as the state, the parliament, political parties, the government, associations, public administrations trade unions, political power, democracy, election, constitution and etc. In the modern era, debates on culture role in politics have an incontrovertible significance in different states that has been discussed by many scholars.
In this paper, I will try to clarify one of the core topics of political culture in political communication, and make an attempt the importance of the major changes of political culture in different societies. We will see the importance of one of the core topics of political culture and how it effects the political communication.
First of all, when we handle the term ‘communication’, we should say that during the last decades it is the basis of social relations through the developments of technologies of communication. Actually, the basis of the term political communication refers to the methods of communication which are put forth by political actors or organisational structures and convey to the mass through media systems. Franklin gives one of the broadest definitions of political communication in these words; ‘The field of political communication studies the interactions between media and political systems, locally, nationally, and internationally’’ (Gibson and Römmele, 2008; p.475). As we sketchy see that the definitions of political communication, which is not only related with media and political systems, but also mostly the impact and the role of political systems to media and the meaning of media in terms of political communication, has indisputable importance in terms of the fundamental interactions between governments, media and societies in general terms. Actually political communication is defined in terms of comparative politics that political communication is related with society, media and politicians through its interdependency and connection. In fact, the actors of political communication are seen in the central with the following phases; voters, the media and politics. It should be clearly remarked that these actors induce each other and if something changes or develops in one of these actors, the others are affected by nature (Ibid, p.475). We should need to indicate that the role of the media at governmental processes is one of the most attracting parts within the relationships among main actors of political communication.
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On the other side, Street refers that the modern political communications is related with the political marketing and it is different kind of business, show-business. It is seen that it is all related with how politicians make much of their appearance and their voices, because of that politicians are associated with celebrity and fame. In the article of ‘Political Style and Popular Culture’, Street emphasizes that political communication should be comprehended as ‘marketing’ moreover it is kind of buying reputations and power, selling performances and policies. Two criticisms are constructed for stressing on political communication. The first one is correlated with venturing political marketing and the second criticism is importance on political communication. Street emphasizes two analyses under the conception of selling performances and buying reputations (Street, 2003; pp. 86-91). It should be taken into consideration that political marketing as we know, is made before the electoral campaign in order to increase the chance to stand for election of candidates. In these circumstances, political marketing is creating a certain kind of political actors.
Research on Communication in Four Phases
Research on communication in politics has significant occurrences in term of how media influences public opinion, voters. Research on communication is a very broad topic in order to comprehend in detail. In the article of Gibson and Römmele, the research on communication is distinguished in four stages and it is brought with historical perspective. The first phase covers 19th and 20th centuries till the 1930s, and in this stage, the media has a significant effect (direct and decisive) on citizens. Moreover, the media was used to form habits of life, belief and thought of societies. It was used as propaganda by the World War I propagandists and dictatorial states between the years of World War I and World War II. Besides that it was also used by the new revolutionary regime of Russia in order to promote its new political systems. It should be taken into consideration that in the conception of media, political actors have a great impact and a kind of powerful event at governmental processes. As we see above that public opinion is formed by the mass media which has a direct and decisive effect upon choices of voting. In the second phase, the time period consists from the 1930s to the 1960s, which has rather sophisticated empirical studies. In this period, interpersonal communication has the greatest impact and investigations of empirical studies were about media effects and content in different classifications, having minimal effects in terms of the media is another point of this time period. The research results about the above mentioned investigations proposed a much more modest function for media in term of effecting unintended and planned effects. Joseph Klapper put in an appearance a useful summarization of research phase in these words; “mass communication does not ordinarily serve as a necessary or sufficient cause of audience effects, but rather functions through a nexus of mediating factors”(Gibson and Römmele, 2008; p.477) Following this, Lang and Lang debate about conclusion of ‘minimal effect’ with this perspective; “The evidence available by the end of the 1950s, even when balanced against some of the negative findings, gives no justification for an overall verdict of “media impotence”’(Ibid, p.477).
Media effects in the third phase, built actually around the emergence of television in the period of 1950s and 1960s. The third period has the greatest importance around the appreciated influence of television. It should be mentioned that the third phase of media effects was the most powerful period which affected social life more than any other type of media systems. The fourth phase of media effects based on agenda setting and priming. It is different than above-mentioned phases and it is generally related with long-term changes, revolving around cognitions and collective phenomena, for instance; delimitations of social reality and ideologies, climates of thoughts and structures of belief. It should be taken into consideration that agenda setting is the basis of this phase. It is not only related about ‘what to think’, but also saying ‘what to think about’ to direct public opinion; hereby it is seen that agenda setting is for society and the theory concentrates on the quantity of coverage not actually its content or tone (Ibid, pp.477-478). It should be taken into account in these circumstances that, media effects in four phases have different influence in each other, but mostly when we consider today’s media effects, television still has significance in terms of affecting social life, besides that social media has obtained much more importance when we compare it with its emerging period.
Political Parties, Electoral Campaigns and Communication
As we see above that how media influences public opinion in terms of research on communication in four different periods. In this part, we will see the relationship between political parties and communication. Political communication is inquired into from a party research perspective without any doubt. It should be taken into account that political parties make suitable for the demands of change of the society and media, due to this reason party headquarters have been reinforced in order to be able to match new demands. In the paper of Gibson and Römmele, the new campaign process influences the parties as well as the character of the parties in the new campaign process. Empirical research evidences illustrate that there are many distinctions within party systems in the course of time and on the step of their professionalization level at political communication in general and professionalized campaigning in particular. For the sake of example, in the US, the Republicans were professionalized their campaign functioning approximately a decade before the Democrats and they used political communication techniques more than before. On the other side, in the UK, Conservatives sustained it before Labour with the new style of campaigning in the late 1970s. In Germany, a new kind of professionalized campaigning appeared although the 1998 campaign occur by the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In the process of professionalizing, political communication can be more active when considering above-mentioned arguments (Ibid, pp.478-479). Actually, in the USA, before the presidential elections, the internet is used intensively at the electoral campaigns. In the USA, it should be taken into consideration that innovations and improvements related with actors of political communication play an important role. Because of that reason, it can be said that the USA stays one step ahead of other countries.
On the other hand, it can be said that under favour of the research findings of political party, the party headquarters’ significance would be increased day by day in such a way that the candidate acquires more significance, due to the increasing appropriateness of television. Political parties make suitable their organizational dynamics besides that their strategies of communication. On the other hand, John Street remarks about party issue that a party’s conduct could be influenced by the particular orientations of the part. Two different-based parties are mentioned, these are; product-oriented party and sales-oriented party. The aim of a sales-oriented party is; persuading. Utilizing ‘the latest advertising and communication techniques to persuade voters that it is right’, whereas a product-oriented party occurs its ideas and its product; whatsoever happens to its electoral results, a product-oriented party would not be adapted or sacrificed. It is specified in the paper ‘The Celebrity Politician’ by John Street that political marketing in these circumstances not only describing viewpoint of the party practice but also it interprets how parties perform (Street, 2003; p.90). When we turn to the paper, ‘Political Communication’, scholars identify two different steps for the political campaigns which are comparative and historical perspectives. Firstly, in the new campaign communication, there are three phases which are measured by scholars. These historical phases are; the pre-modern campaign consists between mid-nineteenth century and 1950s, and the modern phase consists between early 1960s and late 1980s, lastly professionalized campaign phase occurs after 1990s. The third phase of campaign communication-professionalized- is defined by many scholars as modernization and Americanization. It is described as a US campaign model and is claimed that campaigning in most democracies change more Americanized. On the other hand, when handling modernization term in terms of third phase of communication; it is quiet broader perspective and there is a reduction in party identification and an increase in electoral campaigns, therefore there are two models in these circumstances; an adoption model and a shopping model. For the example of US election campaigns could be shopping model which is related with accepted techniques in the campaigns (Gibson and Römmele, 2008; pp. 480-483). On the other side, according to the scholars the two general phases in political campaigning are; in the pre-modern era, the strength of the local organization and face-to-face contact was significant in terms of political communication which is based on these factors. In the second phase of campaigning, party organization and face-to-face contact changed with mass media communication between citizens-voters- and parties in the second general phase of political campaigning. Citizens do not obtain information about party programs from rallies and party meetings in the second phase. They certainly receive information through the mass media. Besides that the message of the party makes an overwhelmingly impression through the mass media. On the other hand, there is a new campaign era which is mentioned early 1990s and new challenges have the significance in terms of Americanized style of campaigning and it is called like a professionalized campaigning, a post-modern phase 3 or a post-Fordism. It has the historical and developmental characteristics besides that, parties enlarge the efforts of this phase in order to reach out individual citizens-voters- through telemarketing, direct mail or internet (Ibid, pp.480-481).
However, referring the media systems, there are different styles in political communication which are mentioned by Hallin and Mancini. Three key models of media systems are pluralist or Mediterranean model, the democratic corporatist model and lastly liberal or the North Atlantic model. In the pluralist model which is most effective in Southern Europe, electronic media has the higher impress rather than newspaper spread. In the democratic corporatist model, commercial media and the relationships between civil, political groups and media can be seen very strong. Lastly the liberal model of media system has a greatest occurrence in commercial broadcasting. Furthermore, the media is independent from social groups and political parties (Ibid, pp.481-483).
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In these circumstances, the relationship among political parties- electoral campaigns and voters with the perspective of political communication, I want to mention about the case of Turkey. The ruling party in Turkey applies the methods and practises of political communication not only from one election, they fasten political communication practises every day and it can be seen that among the other parties in Turkey, AKP (the party in power) manipulates the practises of political communication effectively that is seen in the last electoral campaign which is resulted by 44.19 % in AKP votes. On the other hand, when we compare it with other parties- vote rate- after AKP in electoral campaigns, it can be seen that these parties attach importance to political communication in recent years and they receive support from professionals in this field. However, when we consider the close relationship between political communication and democracies, it should be taken into consideration that, although AKP takes cognizance of practices of political communication mostly, democracy issue is still one of the most disputable arguments in Turkey. Based on this, how we could be of one mind about the effectiveness of the practises of political communication which is put account by ruling party in Turkey. On the other hand, when we consider the relationship between voters and electoral campaigns in Turkey that the results of elections in Turkey shows that the large part of the voters do not have the consciousness of political culture. For instance, Cem Uzan, who is the founder of The Young Party (Genç Parti), gained 7.25% vote rate in 2002, in a short time period while wandering from town to town with some concerts and dinner, the party reached different groups of masses through incompatible practices and techniques of political communication, discourses and techniques of political culture, however the success of the GP could not be maintained. It should be taken into consideration in these circumstances that the success of political communication directly contributes to the political success.
As we see above that political communication is a very broad topic which is defined in the first years of the term as a relationship between governmental processes and its citizens which we mean here voters. We familiarized with the main actors of political communication which are media, political actors and voters. It should be taken into consideration that these political actors influence each other and in order to make the political communication effectively and successfully, the relationship among these actors is very significant issue.
On the other hand, we referred integrity of both political communication and political culture. We saw the relationship among the actors of political communication such as political parties, governments, local governments, pressure groups, non-governmental organizations, the voters, the media, and etc. Furthermore, we clarified how media effects to the political communication referring to the comparative and historical perspectives of media systems.
Furthermore, we saw that the practises of political communication contribute freewill, right of election and political information which voters need. The relationship between media and political parties has an incontrovertible impact in terms of political communication, as we remarked. It should be said that, in order to make political communication more effective in near future, it has to be sprawled more and should not be restricted with electoral campaigns, lastly applying the practises of political communication in everyday life will bring a new dimension to political communication.
1-Gibson K. Rachel, Römmele, 2008: “Political Communication”, within “Comparative Politics”, edited by Caramani D.Oxford Publications,
2-Street, J. , 2003: “Political Style and Popular Culture”, within “Media and the Restyling of Politics”, edited by Corner J. and Pels D.
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