chapter  11
12 Pages

The Cold War Culture of Communist Parties Marc Lazar

My subject calls for some preliminary remarks.1 By 'Cold War culture', I refer to an intense moment that exaggerated certain aspects of the political culture of the French and Italian communist parties. Of course, the idea of political culture raises an impressive array of conceptual or methodological problems and objections.2 In the hope of escaping 'culturalist' or 'systemic' definitions, I prefer to take an anthropological approach to culture, considering it a way of life, a 'grammar of communication', a 'symbolic process of social interaction' or 'a complex body of norms, symbols, myths and images that penetrate the inner self of the individual, structure instincts and orient emotions', to use the definitions of Clifford Geertz, Pitirim Sorokin or Edgar Morin.3 In this perspective, a culture is not innate, essential or timeless, but rather is repeatedly subject to re-composition and transaction, and is marked both by permanence and change.4 The same thing applies to political culture, which, by extension, represents an ensemble of ideas, values, symbols and beliefs and a diverse multitude of rules and practices. The combination of these elements gives meaning to reality, sets down rules of the game, shapes political behavior and helps inculcate social norms.5