Symbolic Party as Cultural and Political Phenomenon: German Experience in Russian Perspective

Symbolic Party as Cultural and Political Phenomenon: German Experience in Russian Perspective

Potseluyev S.P.,

Dr. Sci. (Pol. Sci.), Professor, Department of Theoretical and Applied Political Science, Institute of Philosophy, Social and Political Sciences, Southern Federal University,

DOI: 10.17976/jpps/2015.04.04

For citation:

Potseluyev S.P. Symbolic Party as Cultural and Political Phenomenon: German Experience in Russian Perspective. – Polis. Political Studies. 2015. No. 4. P. 22-33. (In Russ.).


The article is devoted to symbolic parties as a typical phenomenon of segmented (fragmented) political cultures. On a material of German political history, the various aspects of this phenomenon are examined by the author, drawing parallels with post-Soviet Russia. Symbolic parties are understood as coalitions around significant political symbols expressing different segments (fragments) of political culture. Following German sociologist M.R. Lepsius, the author describes the social basis of symbolic parties as a “sociomoral environment”. It is a complex socio-cultural formation which differs from the other environments (subcultures) through the symbols expressing specific moral frames of political ideologies. In the context of a segmented and fragmented political culture, the sociomoral environments are characterized by “camp mentality” and a tendency to “social secession.” In times of deep socio-political crisis, the symbolic parties become an expression of civil war of political symbols rather than a sign of politically diffuse socio-cultural environments. The article indicates the typical characteristics of this war, namely, “savagery” of public political discourse, beastialization of political opponents, social militarism, deficit of monopoly on the legitimate use of symbolic violence, and others. The author considers the sociomoral environments as a subcultural basis of symbolic parties in Imperial Germany; moreover, a comparative classification of symbolic parties in the Weimar Republic and contemporary Russia is proposed in the article. In particular, in Weimar Germany the following symbolic parties are defined: democrats-republicans, imperialists-monarchists, communists-internationalists, and national socialists. In modern Russia, at least three major symbolic parties are identifiable: democrat-westerner, imperial nationalists, and communists-nationalists. Between Weimar Germany and contemporary Russia a substantial similarity is revealed, and this concerns not only a set of symbolic parties, but also the tendency of their interaction: the transition of ideological power from the symbolic party of “democrats” to the one of “imperialists”, though in the framework of the same constitutional order. However, in contrast to the ideological situation in Weimar Germany, in the post-Soviet Russia a limited civil-patriotic consensus was formed. Strengthening this consensus involves managing risks of authoritarian-totalitarian unification of the national political culture. Alternatively, this article refers to the experience of “symbolic balancing” of the ideological extremes of “left” and right “in democratic countries. Moreover, the author discusses the E. Fraenkel’s idea of “collective” or “dialectic” democracy which involves competent parliamentarism and interaction of political subcultures on pluralistic basis.

symbolic parties; fragmented political culture; sociomoral environments; political subcultures; cold civil war; civil war of symbols; symbolic national consensus; dialectic democracy.

Content No. 4, 2015

See also:

Rozov N.S.,
Crisis and Revolutions: Fields of Interaction, Actors’ Strategies, and Trajectories of Conflict Dynamics. – Polis. Political Studies. 2017. No6

Almond G., Verba S.,
Civil Culture and Stability of Democracy. – Polis. Political Studies. 1992. No4

Semenenko I.S., Lapkin V.V., Pantin V.I.,
Identity in the system of coordinates of the world development. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No3

Zevina O.G., Makarenko B.I.,
Some peculiarities of political culture of modern Russia. – Polis. Political Studies. 2010. No3

Shimotomai N.,
Cold War in East Asia and the Problem of “Northern Territories”. – Polis. Political Studies. 2008. No6

Screen version