Are some cultures incompatible with democracy?


Religious or secular.

In today’s society, humans are defined by its culture. The norms, rules and practises of a society shape the process of how people within a society work. Societies possess different types of culture, which differs in the context of geographical and timely events; unipolar or a diverse culture. The order of politics to be instated in these societies reiterates the importance of how cultures interplay with the decisions and outcomes of politics. The culture of a society, be it religious or secular, dictates the culmination of suitable ideologies.

The forefront of politics comes in the form of democracy. The inevitable globalisation paved the path for the fourth wave of democratisation. The advocacy of existing democracies created new-born democracies in the mould of Arab Spring, which numerous dictatorship states had fallen due to civil revolutions. According to the 2016 Freedom House Index, 64% of states in the world are rated as democratic states. The impartiality of freedom however does not justify the transparency of freedom of the 64%, of which less than half is considered “partly free” or “sham democracy”. The interconnectedness of culture and politics is imperative to how states function in terms of democracy or anything but. With the rest of the 36% clearly stated by the Index, the culture of these states is evidently incompatible with democracy.


The requisite and the quintessential elements of democratisation, for it to gain sustainability, have to seek the approval of existing culture.

According to Professor Seymour Martin Lipset,

“Democracy requires a supportive culture, the acceptance by the citizenry and political elites of principles underlying freedom of speech, media, assembly, religion, of the rights of opposition parties, of the rule of law, of human rights and the like. Such norms do not evolve overnight.”


The culture of the society inevitably have to support democracy which its fundamentals influence the substantives of a political system. Political Catholicism of a society is least or almost incompatible to the elements of democracy. Catholicism focuses on the teachings of the bible and political decisions are solely made by the authority or a religious leader. The hierarchical structure of Catholicism further reinstates the power authority of each different levels of class, which therefore reject the notion of equality among the people. The Catholic Church also holds no regard to other kinds of truth for which “God” of besieged teachings is considered lawful and intrinsic.

It ultimately clashes with the institution of democracy in its multiple elements of which constitutional rule focuses on a popular sovereignty.

The presence of a culture within a society has to accept the authority of a ruling regime or a state. The definition of a civic culture is the state of one’s values, practices and identity which its necessity of a society has to fulfil its civics duty willingly in an accepted form of ideology.

The theory by Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba suggests that civic culture determines the political structure. The civic culture in these Arab states however defeats the notion of democracy for which is conflicting to its elements. Islam separates itself from the ruling secular government, however the civic culture of these Islamic states are evident that Shia Laws are implemented so much so that the society deems it acceptable. These states are clearly incompatible with democracy for which its civic culture contrasts with that a democratised civic culture.

The institution of political ideologies changes in time and geo-politically. The rise of Arab Spring. The political structure affects the civic culture that is embedded in these societies. The civic culture had become so prudent that, under years of authoritarian rule culminated the civil revolutions in early 2011.

The dichotomy of democratized civic culture and part thereof was rendered ineffective, were the result of globalisation calling for the rhetoric of, “the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”


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