Damirka Mihaljevic, Development of Political Culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina

European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities ISSN 2285-4916 ISSN-L 2285-4916 Volume 9 Issue No.3 July 2020 pp.1-19.Published: 25 October 2020
European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities ISSN 2285-4916 ISSN-L 2285-4916 Volume 9 Issue No.3 (July 2020), pp.1-19.

Development of Political Culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Damirka MihaljevicUniversity of MostarBosnia and Herzegovina


This paper analyzes the political culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina in historical, analytic and critical terms using the political culture approach. It primarily defines the political culture, its historical development in the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav periods, and the consequences and impacts of such development on contemporary political culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Namely, political culture is formed by its state and institutional organizations and its specific human subjects. However, the political culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina has specifically evolved in the opposition and confrontation of the three main religious and ethnic communities: Muslim-Bosniak, Orthodox-Serb, and Catholic-Croat. At the time of democratization and liberalization of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian society in the 1990s, such historical oppositions and confrontations between the three main religious and ethnic communities did not lead to the creation of a common political identity of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina but rather, their irreconcilable differences and exclusivity caused mutual war conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina(of which Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state has not yet consolidated).Keywords: Bosnia and Herzegovina, political culture, political identity, democratization, liberalization, divided society


Political culture consists of all that has been created throughout history within a particular political community in the form of a state and institutional organization, but also of people with specific characteristics who form the subjective side of political culture. This means that the political culture of each nation is deeply imbued with the historical background, but also with the social heritage of specific people whose value orientations have wider political significance. Political culture is significantly influenced by the very historical experience of the government structure and the results of everyday politics during which certain values ​​and behavioral patterns directed to the political system are shaped. Whether it is just a simple habit and a tradition, it is included in explanation of political culture, says Almond.[1] As founders of the political culture approach to politics, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba conducted a survey of political culture in five countries: the United States, Great Britain, Italy, Germany and Mexico. The survey found significant differences among the questioned members of different nations. For example, cooperative political competence depended less on the demographic characteristics of individuals and more on their nationality. The researchers concluded that cooperative political competence was exclusively related to the historical and cultural specificities of each nation.[2] American scientist T. W. Rice conducted a study on the ethnic origin of Americans and the effect of that origin on their civil culture. The research has shown that immigrants bring their cultural baggage with them, which then lasts for generations and affects the political thinking and behavior of the offspring.[3]

In his famous book Making Democracy Work, R. Putnam showed how different characters of civil life have developed in regions under the influence of history in the south and north of Italy. It is precisely in historical context that Putnam sees the roots of the differences in institutional effectiveness of the south and north of Italy. "Nevertheless, social patterns plainly traceable from early medieval Italy to today turn out to be decisive in explaining why, on the verge of the twenty-first century, some communities are better able than others to manage collective life and sustain effective institutions."[4] While being a dynamic phenomenon, culture still remains extremely important, as Fukuyama states.[5] Proceeding from these considerations, we can ask the fundamental question on the impact of historical and cultural heritage on the impossibility of integrative political action and decision-making in BiH. Internal forces have not reached a consensus on organization of the state since the 1990s. The imposed constitutional structure (1995), with the significant role of international community in the political life of BiH, implies, in Putnam's words, unresolved dilemma of collective action, resulting in impossibility of consensus. The political rift of such proportions is an indicator of political culture and its strong effect on the political system and the entire political life. Namely, the paper deals with the political evolution of value patterns in BiH and their interrelations in the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslav periods, then in the social and political changes of the 1990s, and eventually with the patterns of political culture in contemporary BiH. The methodological and theoretical concept is set within the framework of the analytical and critical approach to the history of BiH within the two foreign rules, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian one, and the Yugoslav state, within which the influence of these historical experiences on the formation of the content of political culture will be analyzed below. The paper draws on Putnam's aforementioned book based on the political culture approach to politics. Putnam's considerations and theses confirm the influence of history on the establishment of two different social patterns established in Italy: the cooperative political style of the north and the hierarchical tradition of the south. These patterns were demonstrated to be the best predictors of the performance of their political governments. In addition to Putnam, the paper also uses the political and cultural considerations of the political culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Mirjana Kasapović[6] and Srećko M. Džaja[7], according to which the political culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina has developed in the opposition and confrontation of the three main religious and ethnic communities: the Muslim Bosniak, Orthodox Serb and Catholic Croat community. The approach to political culture uses the Almond and Verba's concept according to which subjective orientations towards politics are shaped by political and cultural heritage, traditions, values, beliefs and attitudes.

Defining the concept of political culture

A term similar to the phenomenon of political culture has existed since people began to speak and write about politics, according to G. A. Almond. In the prophecies and admonitions, the prophets attributed different qualities and inclinations to the Amalekites, Philistines, Assyrians, and Babylonians. Similarly, the Greek and Roman historians, poets, and dramatists described the culture and character of the Ionians and Dorians, Spartans, Athenians and others.[8]

Then the concept gradually evolved through the works of great thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Rousseau and Tocqueville. Although their understanding of political culture was rather vague and unclear, they were the first to comprehend the subjective dimension of politics. They argued that different forms of government reflect the kind of virtues that prevail among people.[9] That is why the founders of the political culture approach to politics, G. A. Almond and S. Verba, consider them precursors of the political culture approach. A. Comte, E. Durkheim, and M. Weber provided their specific contributions to the definition of the concept. As stated by H. Eckstein in terms such as the Comte's consensus, Durkheim's collective consciousness, Weber's concept of individual actions, the Parsons' action frame of reference was the hidden concept of political culture.[10] The concept was first defined in 1963 in the already mentioned famous work The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Almond and Verba defined political culture as orientations - attitudes toward the political system and its different parts as well as attitudes about the role of the individual in political life.[11] Although there are different definitions of political culture like subjective, objective, heuristic and comprehensive ones, they all include key components such as beliefs, values ​​and attitudes. All authors talk about political culture as a collective phenomenon, historical phenomenon, but also as subjective orientations towards political objects. The integration of subjective orientations, objective values, norms and rules establishes the process of internalization of these components of culture, or socialization.[12] In the processes of gaining personal and collective experience of a people, political culture determines concrete contents of consciousness and influences individual behavior and that at the social level.

At the general level of society, the core of political culture consists of social heritage, which includes historical background, economic and political development course, prevailing social mentality, and at the individual level the characteristics of specific people. Consequently, political life can be influenced by everything that has been created through history in the organization of the state and its institutions, accompanied by the dynamics of economic development, as well as people with specific characteristics that they have acquired. The dynamics of social and political development do not necessarily determine the continuity of political culture but also determine its discontinuity in which it is modified.

Attitudes, values, ideologies, symbols, public opinions are all subjective phenomena and subjective manifestations of people's attitudes towards different objects of politics, and political culture is just a common denominator to all these phenomena.[13] Politics, therefore, consists not only of institutions and interests, or rational attitudes and statements, but also of different manifestations of the subjective attitude of people towards politics. They are developed in the processes of personal and long-term collective experience of members of a particular political community. The main characteristics of particular national political cultures are determined by the typology of political culture on the basis of dominant contents.

Typology of political culture

The founders of the political culture approach to politics, Almond and Verba, also defined the types of political culture: parochial, subject, participant and civic political culture.[14] Each of these types is produced from the relationship between a particular social structure and form of state and institutional organization. Forms of political culture essentially represent a history of the development of political consciousness. Parochial political culture is immanent to the life of original communities in which there are no differentiated political roles. Value orientations, as fundamental components of political culture, do not exist. The political system is not separated from other social systems and neither are political orientations separated from religious ones. In a parochial community, members do not expect anything from the political system, and neither do they expect changes that would start the political system.[15] The second form, subject political culture, develops in a feudal form of government. The subjects have a developed awareness of government, but not to a level that would actively involve them in political processes. "The subject is aware of specialized government authority: he is affectively oriented to it, perhaps taking pride in it, perhaps disliking it, and he evaluates it either as legitimate or as not."[16] Subjects do not enjoy and do not exercise the rights of a free man. The third form, participant political culture, emerges as a consequence of the major economic, political and cultural changes brought about by capitalism. A participant is a politically emancipated person who owns and exercises his or her political rights. Unlike the other two types of political culture, participants tend to be oriented toward an activist role in the political community. Their evaluations and feelings of such a role may vary from acceptance to rejection.[17] And finally, the civic political culture has enabled the democratic system to consolidate, because its dominant characteristics are the only ones suitable for a democratic system. In this most developed type of political culture, tendencies towards political participation, but also loyalty, are pronounced. A democratic citizen is expected to be active in politics, to be rational in his or her approach, driven by reason, and not by emotions.[18] High levels of political information, readiness for communication, political organization and political activity can be found in civic political culture. Civic political culture is a pluralistic political culture. The parochial and subject characteristics still remain in its participant orientation. This is why civic political culture is called a culture, as H. Eckstein would say, of "balanced disparities." Indeed, it is based on the internal capability of individuals themselves to balance internal personal contradictions, the need for active political action with the need to be loyal to the democratically elected government. This quality is not self-born or self-generated, but it is developed, learned and formed by the processes of political socialization and education. In addition to these pure forms of political culture, the two authors have also introduced three types of systematically mixed political cultures: parochial-subject, subject-participant, and parochial-participant culture. After defining the concept and typology of political culture, the paper next analyzes the influence of history on shaping the content of political culture in BiH.

The influence of history on political culture in BiH - the Ottoman rule

The study of effectiveness of the Italian regional governments by R. Putnam starts in the deep past of the Middle Ages. The regions were introduced into the political life of Italy in the 1970s, but their historical roots are much deeper. Putnam believes that "social patterns plainly traceable from early medieval Italy to today turn out to be decisive in explaining why, on the verge of the twenty-first century, some communities are better able than others to manage collective life and sustain effective institutions."[19] To what extent are these Putnam's theses generally applicable to BiH, or to what extent the present-day irreconcilable differences and exclusivities of value orientations in political culture are influenced by historical experiences? In looking for an answer, and following Putnam's thread, we go deep into the past of BiH in the 15th century.

At that time, the Ottoman period began in BiH, the period that lasted for almost 500 years and left behind deep traces in the structure of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian society. From the European Middle Ages, as stated by S. Džaja, BiH changed to a completely different Ottoman political, social and confessional pattern. One of the most important changes experienced by BiH is the Islamization and formation of Bosnian and Herzegovinian multiculturalism. The process of Islamization created the most numerous Muslim religious community, which, in addition to the tax-exempt benefits, was the only one that had access to government services within the Ottoman administration. The second largest, Orthodox religious community, was created by extensive settlement of the Vlachs of the Orthodox confession in BiH, while the number of Catholics under Ottoman rule decreased.[20]

In accordance with their customs, the social life of religious communities was organized through a specific millet system. It is a kind of religious autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, within which the millet systems still had some independence in cherishing their tradition under the protection of the Sultan. The primary loyalty to the millet supported the religious division since millet became the main focus of identity. Religion became a major factor of homogenizations and differentiations among people. Education and other internal affairs were in the hands of the millet hierarchy and thus actually beyond state control, and this proved ideal for the transfer of new ideology of nationalism that penetrated from the West - especially into the Christian millets. The Catholic and Orthodox churches were in constant tensions, clashes and hostility towards the Ottoman state and Islam, and fought for greater church and religious rights.[21] Alliances between religious communities, as wrote Džaja, were conditional partly because of the tensions of organic nature, and were partly encouraged by foreign administrations. The Ottoman government often instigated their conflicts, thwarted and prevented spiritual communication. For this reason, there was a fear for self-identity, hypersensitivity, distrust and deep spiritual alienation between the confessions.[22] Taking a historical view, as stated by M. Kasapović, religious rifts were first formed, which took on the characteristics of ethnic and national rifts in the historical processes of the constitution of modern ethnic and national communities.[23] A strong connection between religion and ethnicity was established by the influence of the millet system on social circumstances in BiH. In the 19th century, after the end of the Ottoman rule, BiH was deeply Orientalized, but still did not extinguish the western component. "This component outlived the Ottoman epoch in the form of Bosnian non-established Catholicism led by the Franciscans, but in the process had to suffer multiple losses and be satisfied with the third place, after the Serb Orthodox and Muslim components."[24] As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, with the Austro-Hungarian occupation BiH returned to the European political-scientific paradigm by adopting the first Constitution in 1910 and Parliament as a legislative body. The development of parliamentarism in BiH began with the establishment of the Parliament, although it had limited powers in relation to the monarchy.

BiH in the Austro-Hungarian administration

The Austro-Hungarian occupation of BiH was not simple because of the strong resistance of the Muslim and partly Serb Orthodox population, so that much larger military potential had to be engaged than planned. The occupation found BiH technically and economically very underdeveloped, deeply Orientalized, and additionally exhausted and politically troubled by the uprising of the Christian predominantly Serb Orthodox population.[25]Religious differences were also reflected in the social sphere, and the position of the three religious communities changed with the change of state government. The confessional structure took different positions on the new state administration based on its position. By delaying the agrarian reform, the monarchy on the one hand took Bosnian Muslims under protection and on the other hand hindered the processes of emancipation of the South Slavic Christian population - both in the interest of maintaining the dual system.[26] The Muslims established a strategy of maintaining good relations with the monarchy in order to keep privileges and because of concerns for their position. The political activity of the Muslim conservative elite, which was followed by the majority of the Muslim population, was based on the idea of the Muslims as the most lasting local element in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and their right to possession has been around from times immemorial.[27] The national ideologies of Croats and Serbs laid claims on BiH even before the Austro-Hungarian occupation. The annexation was welcomed by the Croats in BiH, expecting the act to be a step towards integration of BiH with Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. "However, the national ideological rift between the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Croats did not occur because the entire Croat civic side in Bosnia and Herzegovina persisted in the positions of Great-Croatian patriotism."[28] Between the 1878 occupation and the 1908 annexation, the Serb political powers in BiH operated exclusively within the framework of the pan-Serb ideology. After the annexation, the pan-Serb vision of BiH reached its peak by shifting the Yugoslav tones to a pan-Serb concept.[29] Within the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, religious affiliation was the basis of identification and a significant political factor. And so in a way, as stated by M. Kasapović, that religion became the principle of political constitution and organization of society. As compared to the processes in Europe where the secular-rationalist bureaucratic state was on the rise at the time, this was retrograde. The new administration strove to maintain the concept of confessional affiliation and to prevent emancipation processes. Still, the national identities prevailed under the influence of political developments in Serbia and Croatia and played an important role in anti-government movements. The pressure of modernity on subjectivity was determined by affiliation with one of the three religious communities. The Orthodox identified themselves according to the Serb character, the Catholics according to the Croat character, and the Muslims according to Islam and the Ottoman Empire. Their political aspirations were aimed at different directions outside the Bosnian and Herzegovinian political framework. The monarchy's attempt to create a single Bosniak nation in order to remove the Croats and Serbs from national movements in neighboring countries bore no fruit. This concept was intensified during the reign of Benjamin Kalay, but found no response in the Bosnian population and politically could not overcome religious divisions. All activities of the monarchy were affected by fear of nationalism. As stated by Džaja, the Austro-Hungarian administration therefore behaved in a neo-absolutist way and pursued a precarious politics. "The intention was to build Bosnia and Herzegovina as a political island within the South Slavic world, but at the same time the readiness for more comprehensive investment and deeper reforms was lacking."[30] The historical force lines acting on BiH left a deep mark on the three religious and national communities and their mutual relations.

Shaping value differences

In a traditional agrarian society pressured by oppressive foreign governments, distrust of state institutions developed and homogenization strengthened, leading to intra-group action. The hierarchical structure of traditional society is characterized by the mindset of submission, especially to the patriarchal authority. The omnipresent distrust and insecurity caused by the exploitative despotic form of ruling left no room for building even the basic beliefs about the character of the political system and the political actors that Verba refers to as primitive beliefs. In fact, these are those beliefs about politics that are generally accepted, that every individual adhering to them believes that all other people also do so.[31] Networks of formal and informal communication at a vertical and horizontal level characterize the society and leave lasting consequences. At the vertical level, under the conditions of the Ottoman rule based on Islam, it was not possible to build norms of reciprocity, because they are a characteristic only of Western civilization. The different positions of religious communities within foreign administrations also created separate patterns of relations to the political sphere. Allocation of values within an authoritarian system works by denying the values possessed by the society to some individuals, while at the same time allowing or restricting others access to the values. For example, the unequal distribution of land holdings in the Ottoman and, in a large part, in the Austro-Hungarian government, placed members of the three religious communities in different positions in relation to the state and in relations with each other. The ruling class of landowners consisted of Muslims (91.15%).[32] At the horizontal level, this fact could not encourage coordinated collaborative action that would develop mutual benefit and thus become a characteristic of social organization. Segregated networks of cooperation developed within groups, but civic engagement that crosses social divisions and encourages wider cooperation did not.[33] Interactions between the three religious communities also occurred, but they did not reach the quality of the said norm. The political evolution of BiH did not take the course of creating a basis on which the dilemma of collective action could be resolved. In Hobbes's words, instead of the foreign administration, what was missing was a state to which the parties would voluntarily surrender their powers to manage their relations. "The state enables its subjects to do what they cannot do on their own, to trust one another."[34] In BiH, through the history, there has been no such joint action of the three religious and national communities towards building a common state. "It is usually only members of one community that were in that position, while members of the other two communities were mainly opponents or enemies of the existing state community."[35] On the contrary, coercion creates an increasingly deeper rift that did not allow a peaceful functioning of the society. Thus, it became a generator of the intra-group loyal activity within which all those who did not belong to that group felt like strangers. This undoubtedly suited the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian administrations, because they strengthened their position by creating a gap between the three religious communities. Spontaneous rebellious reacting to the threats to interests and rights developed in such a historical context. Foreign administrations that embodied the asymmetry of power and exploitation at a societal level reinforced awareness of the value of freedom from. This is a logical sequence in itself, but in this region it has brought into conflict the two concepts of freedom, internal and external. The internal logic of separate groups with a manifested tendency to passivate individuals and erode free active willing activity contributed to it. This orientation was supported by absolute deprivation in conditions of limited resources. At the turn of the 20th century, the elites in all three groups were oriented towards their idealized past or utopias of the future. As further stated by Džaja, they opened wide spaces to old and new stereotypes about the enemy, while the concept of unity and common interest remained halfway. "Foreign governments are simply replaced by a domestic urge of the stronger to rule over the weaker. In the last hundred years, Citoyen could only be confirmed in the region as a verbal construction."[36] In the 20th century, BiH was the only colonial property in Europe. It liberated itself from foreign power under the influence of external factors, by the breakup of Austria-Hungary defeated in a war, rather than by contribution of internal forces. That began the political development of BiH within the monarchist and then socialist Yugoslavia.

BiH in both Yugoslavias

Yugoslav history begins with the ideology of integral Yugoslavianism in the first common state of the South Slavic peoples that resulted from the danger of other powers. It was based on the idea of a "three-named, three-tribal people," with a strong and centralized government in Belgrade. In the circumstances of pronounced centralism and unitarism, other peoples aimed at decentralization striving to keep their identity, and that became a constant of their activity in the Yugoslav state. The multinational composition of population complicated relationships in BiH more than in other parts of the first common state. The constant perpetuation of national divisions and opposition between Serbs and Croats laying claims on Muslims, whose national status was not recognized by the new state, led to constant tensions. The very intellectual leadership of the Muslims was divided about this. Some advocated Croat and the others Serb national idea and opted for the corresponding nationality. As Džaja writes, this did not take deeper roots in ordinary Muslim people attached to religion, Islamic culture, as well as Turkish political tradition on the Balkan Peninsula. Within the Kingdom, more and more clearly the Croats sided with their compatriots in Croatia, just as Serbs became increasingly attached to their compatriots in Serbia. The Muslim elites, having learnt from the experience with the Austro-Hungarian administration and from fear for their existence, continued their strategy of maintaining good relations with the central government in the kingdom too. The main Muslim political organization JMO was a regular coalition partner during the first Yugoslav state. Although the authoritarian regime prohibited independent organizing of national communities, the rifts between Bosnian and Herzegovinian segments did not disappear, but were only suppressed and subdued.[37] The Communists tried to resolve the differentiation into different social structures and three different value systems in BiH by imposing a single identity and at the same time denouncing national identifications and divisions. Ideological stigmatization of religion and affirmation of atheism as an essential component of state ideology were conducted at the same time. Taking into account the influence of religion on national consciousness, this process was of greater significance in BiH than in other communist states. "The Catholic and Croat identities were not so strongly linked in Croatia as they were in Bosnia and Herzegovina, just as probably Orthodox and Serb identities were not connected in Serbia so much as in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A particular problem was the complete nominal amalgamation of Muslim religious and national identities: becoming Communists, Croats and Serbs formally ceased to be Catholics and Orthodox, while Muslims as Communists ceased to be muslims and Muslims and remained only Muslims."[38] As explained by Kasapović, the strong connection of the religious and national identity in BiH reflected particularly on Croats and their presence in the Communist Party, which was less frequent than that of Croats in Croatia.­

After coming into power, the Communists avoided defining a separate national identity, among other things, because at that time they were convinced that the different identities would be transformed into a common socialist identity one day. It was endeavored to build a new unity by overcoming historical differences and divisions through socialist values ​​such as brotherhood, unity and Yugoslavianism as expressions of socialist patriotism. Yugoslavianism was especially encouraged as a correct national identification through mixed marriages. This concept was quite unsuccessful. This is borne out by the data on 12% mixed marriages in BiH, which was the Yugoslav average. For multinational BiH, "Yugoslavia in miniature", this data was rather a sign of clear national segregation. "This situation was certainly decisively influenced by the strong attachment of Bosnian and Herzegovinian Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosniaks to their religious and national communities."­­­[39]

Value heritage

Every ideological construct is based on the values ​​which, through internalization, serve as value orientations and frames of orientation in the environment. Thus, liberalism affirms autonomy of the individual and prefers individualistic values. Socialism supports state-mediated collective ownership and collectivist values. The performance of the socialist system was reflected by ideologized and administratively introduced values ​​in the public space. These values ​​were put as unquestionable and required submission of the individual and his or her affirmation in the collective. The main ideological factor was the self-governing orientation that suppressed national and religious identity. From this orientation, components of suitability, egalitarianism and collectivity are derived. Values ​​do not disappear by transformation of a political system, but continue to function and thus leave permanent traces in cultural patterns. This is indicated by research conducted in the former socialist countries by Schwartz and Bardi (1997). The results showed that in societies that had a socialist system, more emphasis was placed on conservative values ​​and hierarchy, and less on intellectual autonomy, egalitarianism and master status.[40]

Within the former socialist order, Bosnian and Herzegovinian society went through a process of limited modernization that did not allow fundamental human rights and freedoms to be respected. As D. Sekulić writes, although modernization shook the traditional value system, this move was within ideological values ​​with the individualistic and liberalistic spirit being erased at the same time. Deeper transitional changes after the collapse of the socialist order called for a complete social modernization.However, the change in value orientations could not follow the speed of institutional changes at the same pace. The disconnect between institutional and political-cultural development is manifested precisely through changes and resistance to changes. This testifies to the determination of democratic consolidation by socio-cultural preconditions in which a central role is played by the inherited subjective orientations of citizens. A deeper insight into understanding of the standstill in modernization processes in the post-socialist years is offered by Josip Županov's Egalitarian Syndrome Theory (EST). Županov applied the egalitarian syndrome theory in the analysis of Yugoslav society since the 1960s and since the 1990s in the analysis of Croatian society. EST is also plausible in BiH, considering that it was part of the Yugoslav community in which the theory was developed and systematically applied. The theory is based on the thesis that a specific socio-cultural pattern of pre-modern peasant societies, which are an obstacle to effective socio-economic development, is deep-rooted in Yugoslav society, as well as in the society of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a dominant societal value pattern that continuously hinders modernization efforts despite the values ​​of market economy and entrepreneurship. EST is a value baggage based on the idea that no one should get more than the one who has the least.[41] That is the logic of the agrarian economy where the main economic resource is land, and it cannot be increased. The concept was transferred into industrial society and deep-rooted in socialism. Županov argues that the negative attitude towards entrepreneurship that hinders the development of market economy is reproduced from such a concept. An important component of egalitarian syndrome is the "intellectual leveling", according to which innovation is not accepted since everything is reduced to mediocrity in society.[42] This is how anti-professionalism took root, resulting in the negative attitude to professional knowledge and method. "Professional criteria are opposed by political and ideological criteria (political acceptability, class interest, national feeling.)"[43] Although destructive, the invisible dimensions of egalitarian syndrome still significantly determine the type of behavior. Therefore, Županov assessed egalitarian syndrome as the main obstacle in the development of market economy and modernization of society.

BiH at the turning point of the 1990s

Following the historical thread of the national segments and their interrelationships, a progressive trajectory of democratic consolidation and institutional effectiveness could hardly be expected in the 1990s. Because, as Putnam says, once the development has been set on a particular course, that trajectory is reinforced by organizational learning, cultural habits, and mental models of social world.[44] Political liberalization that took place in BiH was characterized by the establishment of national parties and national homogenization. The rise of national ideology also occurred in other transition countries, but BiH did not manage to maintain stability. In the wake of the multiple changes of the 1990s, BiH was politically immature and subject to all influences coming from outside. The establishment of a democratic framework inflamed at first the opposition and then the confrontation between the three main religious and ethnic communities, Muslim-Bosniak, Orthodox-Serb and Catholic-Croat. Their mutual relations in contemporary circumstances reflected the established equilibrium of opposition and confrontation within which cooperation for mutual benefit failed to infiltrate. The trouble started with the actualization of different value orientations that led to radicalization and a distinct rift between political elites about the future of the common state.

All three nations considered the future of the common state completely differently, and their opposing views were manifested by the March 1992 referendum on BiH independence. Bosniak and Croat politics were conditionally agreed on the issue of independent future of the common state because of the need to hold a referendum on independence, which according to the Badinter Commission was one of the preconditions for recognition the newly independent states in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. Bosniaks conceptualized BiH as a unitary civil state and Croats as a federation or confederation of national entities. Since holding the referendum was a requirement for recognition of BiH, the substantive differences only temporarily faded into the background. The Serb side did not accept BiH as an autonomous and independent state outside the Yugoslav community and started an independent process of political organization. And finally, although the results of the referendum suggest that the state was formed on the basis of consent, as Kasapović warns, it is a deeply divided society and for the state to be able to function, that is, to survive at all, it requires a formal agreement of the majority of all three peoples in BiH. The inability to overcome the discord ended in war. The conflict was stopped by the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement with direct intervention of the international community. In this way, BiH has become a nominally sovereign state with clear external and limited internal sovereignty. The war created even deeper rifts. Each nation in BiH has its own heroes and its war truth, while at the same time, these heroes and these truths are criminals and forgery of history for members of other nations. Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks have their own political elites, among which there are no overlaps, and members of one nation's political elite rarely participate in a political or cultural organization of the other two nations' elites. There are also three separate courses of political thought and three separate political ideologies.­­­­[45]

Some characteristics of the content of political culture in BiH today

In BiH, there is not enough research on the content of political culture, but segments of political culture have appeared in some studies conducted in recent years. Judging by the election results from the 1990s until the last ones, the political values ​​concerning national identity appear to be the most stable content of political culture.[46] The values ​​that have established themselves in the public sphere as the most important political values ​​also determine the criterion on which political requirements are relevant. The function of norms of political culture is reflected in the decisive effect on limiting the issues and problems that can be the subject of political decision-making. The values ​​and basic characteristics of a political culture can enhance or prevent the problematization of certain issues. Thus, the phenomenon of political culture regulates how value orientations and the attitude towards the values ​​of others are expressed. The established norm of political culture in BiH defined in the first place the oppositions, that is, exclusively self-interest and intra-group activities. In any case, BiH was not constructed in 1995 by the agreement of the internal forces, but by the will of the international community. As Kasapović states, this is how a veto on the partition of the state was put and how the international subjectivity of BiH was established, independent of the will of its constitutive peoples.[47] The inability of political integrative decision-making is a fundamental problem in the state.

While opposing to each other, elites manage national identities as resources at certain times. This mobilization process always goes from the top down. To put in Merkel's words, this shows that the masses have not yet left the tutorship of political elites. The values ​​of political culture and the stimulus they have on political activity of citizens make the essence of the importance of political culture. If authoritarian values ​​are emphasized in political culture, authoritarian political culture is certainly a major obstacle to the development of modern democracy. The prevalence of authoritarianism also contains projected aggressiveness that can seek to resolve conflict even in violence. Taking into account the war conflict of the 1990s and the determining effect of authoritarianism on democratic consolidation, research of authoritarianism is exceptionally important as it implies the speed and success of democratic changes. A small research was conducted after the war, in which the authors used authoritarianism, but mainly in order to prove other phenomena.[48] A survey that was conducted among Bosniaks in BiH in 2007 was published in the book by Dino Abazović Bosnian and Herzegovinian Muslims Between Secularization and Desecularization (2012), indicating a high degree of authoritarianism among Bosniaks. Thus, for example, most Bosniaks agree with the statement that "instead of more democracy in our country, a firm hand is needed in the first place" (38.1 percent completely agree, and 28.3 percent mostly agree).[49] Both studies reported by Puhalo were conducted in the territory of the Republic of Srpska. One of the authors, Dušanić, conducted a survey of positive attitudes of young people between 15 and 26 years of age in the Republic of Srpska, 11 years after the war in BiH, about the "war as a behavioral option." The results have shown that significant predictors of young people's attitudes toward the "war as a behavioral option" are authoritarianism, ethnic attachment and dogmatism, while religious fundamentalism is at the very limit of significance. In a survey conducted in about ten towns and cities in the Republic of Srpska in 2007, Dušanić (2007) sought to establish the correlation between different types of religiosity, authoritarianism, dogmatism, social distance and justifying attitudes toward war. "The results show a low but statistically significant correlation between authoritarianism and intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity, as well as religious experience and religious fundamentalism."[50] A survey on authoritarianism was not conducted among Croats in BiH, but intuitively it can be assumed that there is no significant difference in relation to other two peoples. The strongly manifested authoritarian elements are indicative of a developed and stable patriarchal and subject form of political culture in BiH. This, on the other hand, implies an undeveloped participative, individualistic form, or civil political culture, a culture that is the only one suitable for democracy.

This can be in some way correlated with the distinctly low support for democracy in BiH. According to a survey conducted in 2008, only 29 percent of BiH citizens assess democracy as the best form of government. Such poor results on support for democracy, as stated by B. Šalaj, suggest that BiH citizens could accept undemocratic solutions in some serious crisis.[51]

A study on non-governmental organizations as a major generator of civil society development and democratic political culture has also failed to yield optimistic results. "Three-quarters of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina (about 72%) do not believe that non-governmental organizations can solve some of their personal problems or a problem at the local or entity level."[52] Commitment for the common good is poorly evaluated since it is mainly identified with former ideologically marked forms of collective action. Although crucial to democratic processes, such commitment is difficult to establish. Also, according to the UNDP report, most people in BiH participate exclusively in family life and in narrow family-friends networks.[53] This trust provides greater security to the individual, but is limited to a relatively narrow social circle and does not significantly influence wider social relationships. It eventually results in distrust of others, lack of understanding of others and of different ones, and consequently intolerance and exclusivity. Where there are no norms or networks of civic engagement, prospects for the establishment of a real democracy are slim. That is why Putnam states that the fate of Mezzogiorno is an object lesson for the Third World and the former Communist lands, and so for BiH too.

Amoral familiarism - the fate of Mezzogiorno

"Without norms of reciprocity and networks of civic engagement, the Hobbesian outlook of Mezzogiorno - amoral familism, clientelism, lawlessness, ineffective government and economic stagnation - seem likelier than successful democratization and economic development. Palermo may represent the future of Moscow."[54]

Through the paradigmatic example of Mezzogiorno, Putnam drew the attention of the former socialist states to lessons from the research he conducted in the south of Italy. These are serious troubles that result if people are unwilling to act together for the common good outside of narrow family circles.[55] Amoral familiarism, he says, is a primitive substitute for the civic community. It is established on patron-client relationships, force and family. "This equilibrium has been the tragic fate of southern Italy for a millennium."[56] Although the pattern is ineffective, it is renewed along with the social pathology that is also taking root. "Actors in this social equilibrium may well realize that they are worse off than they would be in a more cooperative equilibrium, but getting to that happier equilibrium is beyond the power of any individual."[57]

The state of social anomie that accompanies transitional changes provides a fertile ground for amoral familiarism to take root. Corruption and clientelism become rational choices in circumstances in which there are no moral and normative correctives. This was shown by Putnam's research. The maximization of personal and collective interests adopted by individuals and groups to the detriment of the general, of the public, becomes a rational strategy. Majority parts of population adopt the attitudes of the socially "successful" because social behavior is most easily learned by imitation. This is evidenced by the survey on corruption conducted in BiH in 2016. About 16.7% of citizens consider corruption acceptable, and more than a quarter of respondents reported having experienced an open request for a corruption act. More than half of BiH citizens believe that reporting corruption is pointless, while 30.2 percent of them hold that corruption is a common practice and that there is no need to report it.[58] A community where moral rules are so violated is a poor orientation framework within which the immoral behavior of individuals offers itself as normal and tends to reshape formal rules with very uncertain results.


Political culture in BiH has evolved in the opposition and confrontation of the three main religious and ethnic communities: Muslim-Bosniak, Orthodox-Serb, and Catholic-Croat. At the time of democratization and liberalization of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian society in the 1990s, such historical oppositions and confrontations between the three main religious and ethnic communities did not lead to the creation of a common political identity of the constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina but rather, their irreconcilable differences and exclusivity caused mutual war conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina(of which Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state has not yet consolidated).Answers to the question why the political culture in BiH is oriented towards self-interest and intra-group activity cannot be found solely in the theses on the imposed solution or in the way the national parties direct the politics, but in the form of the unresolved dilemma of collective action. Success in overcoming the dilemmas of collective action is directly correlated with cultural patterns of historical heritage, as confirmed by the empirical research of R. Putnam. During a long period of foreign governments in which different forms of domination and different positions of religious communities alternated, BiH did not manage to infiltrate collaboration for mutual benefit. Political genesis of BiH did not create a basis on which the dilemma of collective action could be resolved. The complexity of this deficiency multiplies the state of social anomie that accompanies transition states, like BiH, and provides a fertile ground for amoral familiarism to take root. Such a fundamental orientation towards the world becomes a rational strategy in those societies where people are unwilling to act together for the common good outside of narrow family circles. The side effects of such equilibrium are different forms of social pathology accompanied by economic underdevelopment and political inefficiency. The emphasized authoritarianism and markedly weak support for democracy in the contents of the present political culture in BiH causes concern. Success of the transition to democracy is directly dependent on the political culture that defines the speed and success of changes.


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[1] ALMOND, G. A.: Intelektualna povijest koncepta civilne kulture, in:Civilna kultura, politički stavovi i demokracija u pet zemalja , Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2000, p. 427.[2]In the US, there were 37%, in the UK 35%, Italy 13%, Germany 12% and in Mexico 15% of those who opted for a group action strategy in achieving political goals. Stated according to: VUJČIĆ, V.: Pogovor in: Civilna kultura…, op. cit., p. 443.[3]Ibid.,p. 451.[4]PUTNAM, R., D.: Kako demokraciju učiniti djelotvornom, Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2003, p. 131.[5]FUKUYAMA, F.: Kraj povijesti i posljednji čovjek, Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, Zagreb, 1994, p. 238.[6]KASAPOVIĆ, M.: Bosna i Hercegovina: Podijeljeno društvo i nestabilna država, Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2005.[7]DŽAJA, M. S.: Konfesionalnost i nacionalnost Bosne i Hercegovine, SVJETLOST, Sarajevo, 1992.[8]ALMOND, G. A.: op. cit., p. 406.[9]The Greek word arete, by which Aristotle described spirit and body, was translated by the authors as worthiness, virtue. With this, it became clear that virtue is less an exalted volition, and more a practical life skill. Phronesis, political reasoning power, was at the center of political virtue because, as practical wisdom, it determined the use of other virtues in the practice of political life. About that, see: MEYER, T.: Transformacija političkog, Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2003., p. 62.[10]VUJČIĆ, V.: Politička kultura demokracije, Pan Liber, Zagreb, Osijek, Split, 2001, p. 30.[11]ALMOND, G., VERBA, S.: Civilna kultura politički stavovi i demokracija u pet zemalja, Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2000, p. 41.[12]VUJČIĆ, V.: Politika i kultura, Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2008, p. 171.[13]VUJČIĆ, V.: Pogovor, in:op. cit., p. 441.[14]In the comprehensive empirical study, they divided value orientations into cognitive, affective and evaluative ones. The political objects in relation to which they studied orientations were defined by them as the political system as a whole, political system input objects through which the demands of society are conveyed to the government (political parties, interest associations, communication means, etc.), political system output objects through which official politics is conducted (bureaucracy, judiciary, etc.), and the attitude towards the self as a political actor. They reached the topology of political culture using combinations of three types of orientations according to the specified types of political objects[15]ALMOND, G., VERBA, S.: op. cit., p. 23.[16]Ibid.,p. 24[17]Ibid.,p. 24.[18]Ibid.,p. 32.[19]PUTNAM, R.: op. cit., p. 132.[20]KASAPOVIĆ, M.: Bosna i Hercegovina - podijeljeno društvo i nestabilna država, Politička kultura, Zagreb, 2005, p. 78.[21]Some elements that did not threaten the Christian culture and identity of Catholics and Orthodox in BiH were adopted from the Islamic culture of the Ottoman Empire. In Croatian and Serbian languages, there are words of Turkish origin, in the menus there are oriental dishes.[22]DŽAJA, M. S.: Konfesionalnost i nacionalnost Bosne i Hercegovine, Sarajevo, 1992, p.188.[23]KASAPOVIĆ, M.: op. cit., p. 77.[24]DŽAJA, M., S.: Bosna i Hercegovina, op. cit., p. 18.[25]Ibid., p. 37.[26]Ibid.,p. 42.[27]Ibid., p. 214.[28]Ibid., p. 208.[29]Ibid., p. 197.[30]DŽAJA, M. S.: op. cit.,p. 237.[31]VUJČIĆ, V.: Politička kultura, op. cit., p. 40.[32]DŽAJA, M., S.: Bosna i Hercegovina, op. cit., p. 40.[33]PUTNAM, R., D.: op. cit., p. 187.[34]Ibid., p.177.[35]KASAPOVIĆ, M.: op. cit., p. 86.[36]DŽAJA, M., S.: Bosna i Hercegovina, op. cit., p. 243.[37]KASAPOVIĆ, M.: op. cit.,p. 102.[38]Ibid.,p. 110.[39]Ibid., p. 111.[40]SEKULIĆ, D.: Vrijednosno – ideološke orijentacije kao predznak i posljedica društvenih promjena, in: Politička misao, 2011, p. 36.[41]ŽUPANOV, J.: Dominantne vrijednosti u hrvatskom društvu, in: ERASMUS, No. 2, 1993, p. 3.[42]The egalitarian syndrome consists of seven dimensions: the perspective of the limited resources, redistributive ethics, egalitarian distribution, obsession with private businessman, anti-professionalism, intellectual leveling and anti-intellectualism.[43]Ibid., p. 4.[44]PUTNAM, R.: op. cit., p. 191.[45]Ibid.,p. 150.[46]Since the first multi-party elections held in November 1990, the political space of BiH has been dominated by national forces, except in 2000, when the international community tried to change this by group changes of election rules, giving preferential treatment to smaller parties of left orientation.[47]KASAPOVIĆ, M.: op. cit.,p. 192.[48]Surveys conducted under Yugoslav conditions, of which BiH was a part, showed a more pronounced authoritarianism among respondents of the former Federation. Considering that political culture in some way programs people's political activities, political behavior can be predicted based on some elements. This is where the author Ivan Šiber saw a realistic assumption for imposition of different influences, especially in situations of social turmoil, insecurity and conflict.[49]ABAZOVIĆ, D.: Bosanskohercegovački muslimani između sekularizacije i desekularizacije, Synopsis, Zagreb- Sarajevo, 2012.[50]PUHALO, S. VUKOJEVIĆ, S.: Kako građani BiH opažaju nevladin sektor, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Sarajevo, 2015, p.109, 110[51]ŠALAJ, B.: Socijalno i političko povjerenje u BiH, in: Političke analize, Vol. 4, No.1, 2004, p. 13.[52]PUHALO, S. VUKOJEVIĆ, S.:op. cit., p. 215.[53]BAŠIĆ, S.: Društvene nejednakosti, društveno raslojavanje i nejednakosti u BiH, in: Dijalog, Sarajevo, 2013, 1-2, p.80.[54]PUTNAM, R.: op. cit.,p. 195.[55]The concept of amoral familiarism was introduced into science by E. Banfield after the well-known study that he conducted in the poor village of Montegrano in southern Italy in 1956. Banfield explained the poverty and backwardness of Montegrano by the villagers' incapacity to act together outside a narrow family interest.[56]PUTNAM, R.: op. cit.,p. 190.[57]Ibid., p. 189.[58]The project titled "Capacity building for combating corruption in civil service structures in BiH" was carried out by the Office of the Coordinator for Public Administration Reform of BiH and ZAMM Consulting d.o.o., and the results of the research were publicly presented on 1 November 2016. The project is aimed at providing support to the democratic stabilization processes and public administration reform in BiH in the segment of building a professional and ethical civil service. Taken from http/parco.gov.ba/hr/1.4.2017.
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Cite this paper:

Mihaljevic, D. (2020) Development of Political Culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities ISSN 2285-4916 ISSN-L 2285-4916, pp. 1-19.

Author Information

Affiliation: Dept. of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Corresponding Author

Correspondence to: Damirka Mihaljevic, damirka.mihaljevic@ff.sum.ba