globalization, the culture of Western civilization is taking root in areas of the world which possess much different cultural values from the West. For many Westernizing countries, Western culture is typically valued for its scientific achievements and material culture. However, for many Westerners, it is the political culture of Western Civilization that is most valued and treasured. The defining characteristic of Western political culture is democracy practiced at a very sophisticated level.

The recent emergence of an imperial, nation-building United States intent on building liberal democracies has provoked much reexamination of our notions regarding democracy. The failure, thus far, of American nation-building in Iraq has led to questions about the potability of democracy. Some suspect that democracy is unique to Western civilization because of cultural values such as reason, inquiry, and rights. Others contend that democracy can take root in any country, but that not every country has the right conditions for democracy to take root.

Political theorists such as Toqueville attribute the success of American democracy to the American penchant for "associational life." However, associational Political theorists often ponder the role of culture in the formation of political systems. According to the dominant strands of democracy theory, societies with a strong civic identity and a tradition of reason, debate, and persuasion are the best equipped to both develop a functioning democracy and maintain it.

Thesis: "Democratic Culture" theory is misguided because it relies on poorly-understood and transient cultural factors in explaining what is primarily a structural question. Democracy, after all, is a system of political organization, not a way of life or a society's special identity, so it is more useful to examine structure than culture if one seeks to understand the roots of democracy.


Political outcomes, such as a functioning democracies or totalitarian states, are defined primarily in structural terms, e.g. number of opposition parties, presence of town halls, etc., not in cultural terms. Thus, it seems somewhat fruitless to focus on cultural factors in predicting or understanding what is primarily a structural outcome. In attempting to ascertain the roots of democracy, it is more productive to examine structural factors, such as political institutions and social structure, as these are the criteria by which societies will ultimately be evaluated as democracies or non-democracies.

Specific cultural determinants, (e.g. "associationism") produce unstable or irregular political outcomes. The most glaring counterexample to the democratic culture hypothesis in recent times is Weimar Germany. Weimar Germany, and Wilhelmene Germany before it possessed excellent cultural fundamentals for the functioning of a healthy democracy. German universities produced great physicists, philosophers, and economists. Literacy was very high. There was a high degree of organization in almost all aspects of German society. Yet Weimar Germany hosted the most disturbing foment of Nationalism, barbarity, and brutality yet seen in the modern era. The rise of the Nazi party in Germany and the breakdown of German democracy which preceded it both indicate the absolute collapse and failure of democracy in Germany.

Berhman argues Civic engagement and a vibrant political culture, then, actually undermined democracy.Behrman argues that high levels of associationism, absent strong and responsive national government and political parties, served to fragment rather than unite German society. Berhman points out the interplay between structural factors, political institutionalization, and cultural factors, political associationism and…