This research paper analyzes the importance and nature of a nation's political culture, as a factor in determining whether political democracy can take root and develop into a viable, self-sustaining system of government. Political democracy has in recent decades spread from the West to the developing countries; however, democracy can survive only under the proper conditions. In the long run, any government which proves incapable of adapting its cultural institutions and values to broaden the political, economic and social basis for its rule may suffer adverse consequences. Nevertheless, very few nations have been able to make successfully the transition from authoritarian to democratically-based societies.
Necessary Preconditions for Democracy
The findings of the 1989 study by Almond and Verba of the political structure of democracy in five countries--the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Mexico--indicates that, where democratic governments have succeeded, they did so only after a long period of gestation and adaptation, "a gradual political development" (p. 368). A key factor in that development is the political culture of the nation which they say "refers to the specifically political orientation--attitudes toward the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the self in the system" (Almond & Verba, 1989, p. 12).
In those areas of the world which have recently developed economically at a rapid rate such as the tiger economies of East Asia--most notably, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, the regimes in power have attempted in varying degrees to combine authoritarian government and free-market capitalism. This has led some observers, such as former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, to conclude that Western-style democracy is unsuitable in the East Asian region because of cultural and social conditions there. According to him, "in the East the main object is to have a well-ordere...