Political culture characterizes a particular society. Thus, taking into account the specificity of national character and mentality of people, it is possible to talk about the identity of political cultures of different countries. Unlike crashing integral nationalism of the French Republic, the United States is characterized by a different concept of civic identity. For example, national identity in American society is based on democratic values and the concept of active citizenship. The political culture of the United States can be characterized as a construct of national identity that was generated by a shared history and commitment to democratic values.
Traditions, social institutions, and religions have formed the U.S. character and way of life. The United States is not a typical example of the formation of the Western mentality, reflected in European nationalism and national identity, since the U.S. history is the history of immigration. American national culture should be considered as an element of social culture of multiethnic society. National identity and national culture of the United States evolved from values of Anglo-Saxon culture.
It should be noted that the American experience of nation-building and national identity of the U.S. citizens have been based on the principle of political and civil equality despite long-term preservation of slavery and ethnic segregation as state many critical essay samples. Therefore, American national and political culture, as well as its values were considered as ethnically anonymous, being based on a democratic concept of active citizenship.
Public opinion is highly dependent on stereotypes that are rooted in society. In particular, prejudice affected the doctrine of the Supreme Court against minorities. In the 19th century, the Supreme Court of the United States supported racial segregation. A similar decision of the Court was made in the case of Homer Plessy, who went in the railway carriage, which was reserved for white passengers. 1960-1990-ies were marked by significant activity of the Supreme Court in the promotion of political, civil, social, economic, religious and ethnic rights of (racial) minorities in order to settle social and political conflicts of American society. However, the problems of the legal intervention of the Supreme Court in the socio-political practice of the United States were identified. Active interventionism of the Supreme Court called opposition of conservative groups, and incited further debate regarding not only legal, but also valuable norms of American society.
Political culture of the United States, as well as the concept of national identity of its citizens comply with the liberal conception of the nation as a sum of individuals, who enjoy equal rights and conditionally equal opportunities. Hence, it enables them to realize their own interests, which do not diminish the dignity and humanity of other interested groups and individuals.
According to the American liberal conception of democracy, the main goal of liberal democracy is providing assurance of compliance with individual rights, fair electoral process, and effective control over their conduct. Thus, the essence of the American concept of democracy is ensuring conditions for fair competition, as well as a balance between the views and ideologies of social groups and ethnic communities. According to this concept, the American public has always been pluralistic. The policy is the result of conflicts within each social group. Pluralistic approach represents the state as the arena in which different social groups compete for allocation of resources. This competition directs the vector of forces, which come from different social groups. Thus, this approach represents American society as highly modernized one, wherein the government has separated from society and became only its tool. However, an exaggeration of group identification of the population and inequality of political influence of various social pressure groups are inherent to this type of democracy in the United States.
The foundations of modern U.S. immigration policy were formed in 1965, when a new law on immigration and citizenship (The Immigration and Nationality Act) was adopted. This law, which replaced the Immigration Act of 1924, limited the number of immigrants from any country to 2% of the compatriots, who lived in accordance with the census of 1890. It modernized and transformed preferences of some immigrant groups. The additional categories of immigrants, new priorities that were related to employment and participation of new immigrants were set in the law. Thus, in the 1990s, immigration law and the U.S. immigration policy set pragmatic goals for maintaining a balance between business interests and socio-political processes.
As a result, the society became different, more tolerant. In modern society, tolerance is the highest human value, which, in practice, means the application of the principle of tolerance in all spheres of social relations. According to the concept of moral absolutism, moral standards are independent of individual interests, ethnic communities and standards, which prevail in the concept of ethnocentrism as striving of particular ethnic groups to consider their natural culture as the best criterion for evaluation of other cultures. However, the idea of moral absolutism was changed by the concept of moral relativism, according to which moral standards and values are always relative, varying from culture to culture and being determined by the traditions and customs of ethnic communities. The distinctive features of this system are ideological views or ideological pluralism, which is characteristic of the post-ideological society, as well as multicultural education and affordability of saving individual sets of identities (national, ethnic, religious, and regional) in the process of education.
Previously, many immigrants merged into new American people and were attached to the American democratic, social and cultural values. The concept of the melting pot has created the illusion of a subsequent Americanization of immigrants. Currently, the United States is increasingly described not as a melting pot, but as multi-layer cake or cultural mosaic. Moreover, it is very common concept of cultural pluralism.
Modern society of the United States is faced with a change in racial and ethnic composition of the American population, as well as the gradual disintegration of the Anglo-Saxon culture as the basis of national identity and solidarity. These trends highlight the need to review and re-evaluate American exceptionalism, patriotism and other components of traditional Americanism.
Multiculturalism in the U.S. politics had emerged in order to challenge liberalism as a solution for dealing with ethnic diversity. It should also be noted that the policy of multiculturalism is not always able to bring together the various ethnic communities’ outlook, as it is unable to create an American national identity that is adequate in terms of the 21st century. Moreover, scrappy individuality of American society, where ethnic identities dominate, can turn the American nation into amalgamation of ethnic groups and communities that have no common socio-cultural framework for mutually beneficial cooperation. Thus, the spread of the concept of multiculturalism in the United States affected the recognition of the right to maintain and develop their ethnic culture and traditions.
The basis of the concept of multiculturalism in the United States has been the recognition of specific role of each ethnic group in American history, culture and socio-political life. The idea of multiculturalism is based on the premise that immigrants or ethnic groups make up the specific ethnic and cultural groups, or minorities. The practical implementation of multiculturalism contributes to the convergence of various communities and ethnic groups. The modern concept of multiculturalism involves the preservation and development of ethnic subcultures, and reveals the absence of intention to implement cultural assimilation. To promote the concept of multiculturalism, higher education institutions in the USA provide courses and seminars on the history and culture of African Americans, American Indians and others. However, the current policy of the U.S. federal government increasingly encourages the exploration of the English language as a mean of integration into American society by children from South-East Asia at the expense of educational bilingual programs. Such courses can be held in Spanish or minority languages of Southeast Asia.
Within the concept of multiculturalism, many ethnic groups impose the application of legal rules against discriminatory restrictions. According to this concept, the United States is an assemblage of racially or ethnically defined subcultures, all of which have equal value, and none of which can claim a privileged position.
It is essential to maintain strong and deep identification aspects, which knitted together the American nation and the state as a community of former immigrants. Thus, it is necessary not only to demonstrate and to respect cultural characteristics of various ethnic groups, but also to create conditions for the formation of the American national identity, reflecting the peculiarities of American society.
However, the disadvantage of this concept manifests itself in the inability to provide any meaningful social alternative to multiculturalism because of the tendency of each ethnic group of America to pursue happiness and prosperity autonomously and even separately. The problem consists not in the selfish ambitions of some leaders and even ethnic minority communities, but in mechanistic understanding of liberalism in society as a sum of individuals, who pursue private and selfish, though legitimate interests. Moreover, socio-economic, political and legal institutions, which are functioning in a society that is based on the principles of economic and political liberalism, encourage the privileged groups to transform their hegemonic socio-economic influence into a political and legal power.
The impact of American culture is often more clear and tangible in everyday life, rather than the influence of other factors of political, economic, and military plans. The skilful combination of these instruments is interconnected, pursuing a common ultimate goal to protect the national interests of the United States and preserve their global leadership.
The process of self-identification of a U.S. citizen at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century was exposed to a period of crisis and stagnation. It happened due to inability of growth of ethnic tensions in American society and failure of conflicting parties as well as government agencies to come to the substantive agreement on policy issues of multiculturalism and national identity. The policy of multiculturalism contributes to the promotion of unhealthy competition between different communities and prevents social integration on the basis of valid values. Thus, the main features of the United States’ political culture include individualism, self-reliance, idea of democracy as equality of opportunity, understanding of freedom as the absence of external coercion, and protection of ideas of freedom.