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Vol. 39, Nº 69 (Julio - Diciembre) 2021, 774-795
IEPDP-Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas - LUZ
Recibido el 21/04/2021 Aceptado el 21/06/2021
The role of the factors determining
national character in building civil society
DOI: https://doi.org/10.46398/cuestpol.3969.48
Serhii O. Komnatnyi *
Oleg S. Sheremet **
Viacheslav E. Suslykov ***
Kateryna S. Lisova ****
Stepan D. Svorak *****
Abstract
The article deals with the mechanism of impact of
sociopsychological phenomena such as the national character
and the political mentality in the construction and functioning of
civil society. It aims to show the impact of climate, religion, and
the perception of happiness on the state of civil society through
details of a national nature. The main research method is to
compare data from global research on the state of civil society
with data from climatic conditions, dominant religions, and happiness
indices. The article proves coincidently that these factors are reected in
such essential characteristics of civil society as «openness» and «closed-
mindedness». The interaction between the national character and the
construction of civil society has two stages. It is concluded that the results
obtained are important to evaluate the prospects for the construction and
development of civil society in dierent countries and regions of the world.
Further research in this direction involves the study of other aspects of the
impact of national character and political mindset on the functioning of
civil society.
Keywords: civil society; national character; political mentality; climatic
factor; religious factor.
* PhD in Pedagogy, Senior Lecturer, Department of Civil Law Disciplines, National Academy of Internal
Aairs. ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2124-2047. Email: serhkomnatniy@ukr.net
** Doctor of Law, Associate Professor, Professor, Taras Shevchenko National University "Chernihiv
Collegium". ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9512-991X. Email: sheremet.ol.cn@yahoo.com
*** PhD in History, Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, Donetsk
Law Institute of MIA of Ukraine. ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3803-6191. Email:
suslykovviach@ukr.net
**** PhD in History, Head of Department, General Theoretical Legal and Socio-Humanitarian Disciplines,
Kyiv University of Law the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. ORCID ID: https://orcid.
org/0000-0002-2664-7721. Email: katerynal73196@gmail.com
***** Doctor of Law, Professor, Department of Theory and History of State and Law, Vasyl Stefanyk
Precarpathian National University. ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3116-1221. Email:
45professor_svsd_@ukr.net
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El papel de los factores que determinan el carácter
nacional en la construcción de la sociedad civil
Resumen
El artículo trata sobre el mecanismo de impacto de fenómenos
sociopsicológicos como el carácter nacional y la mentalidad política en la
construcción y funcionamiento de la sociedad civil. Su objetivo es mostrar
el impacto del clima, la religión y la percepción de la felicidad en el estado
de la sociedad civil a través de detalles de carácter nacional. El principal
método de investigación es la comparación de los datos de la investigación
global sobre el estado de la sociedad civil con los datos de las condiciones
climáticas, las religiones dominantes y los índices de felicidad. El artículo
prueba fehacientemente que estos factores se reejan en características
tan esenciales de la sociedad civil como la “apertura” y la “cerrazón”. La
interacción entre el carácter nacional y la construcción de la sociedad civil
tiene dos etapas. Se concluye que los resultados obtenidos son importantes
para evaluar las perspectivas de construcción y desarrollo de la sociedad
civil en diferentes países y regiones del mundo. La investigación adicional en
esta dirección implica el estudio de otros aspectos del impacto del carácter
nacional y la mentalidad política en el funcionamiento de la sociedad civil.
Palabras clave: sociedad civil; carácter nacional; mentalidad política;
factor climático; factor religioso.
Introduction
The problem of civil society is one of the most acute in modern socio-
political discourse. In the euphoria of the 1990’s, civil society was seen
as a universal means of establishing a global liberal-democratic order
that would nally ensure peace and happiness throughout the world. But
this ideal began to fail after the crisis of 2008. In the middle of the rst
decade of the 21st century, it became clear that this recipe is not a kind of
panacea to nding solutions to dierent kinds of problems faced by not
only developing countries, but also the democratic world as a whole. Biden
(2020) states that democracies –paralyzed by hyper partisanship, hobbled
by corruption, weighed down by extreme inequality –are having a harder
time delivering for their people.
It should be emphasized that disappointment with civil society
projects is due to a supercial understanding of its essence, incorrect
assessment of the driving forces of its development, and attempts to build
it according to a single unied pattern around the world. The creation of
a new alliance of democratic forces announced by the new US President
776
Serhii O. Komnatnyi, Oleg S. Sheremet, Viacheslav E. Suslykov, Kateryna S. Lisova y Stepan
D. Svorak
The role of the factors determining national character in building civil society
requires a revision of these views. Therefore, the identication of factors
that inuence the process of building civil society in dierent socio-political
conditions has appeared on the agenda of political sciences. The study of
socio-psychological aspects that underlie the genesis and functioning of
civil society as an anthropocentric system helps to establish an objective
scientic position on its prospects in dierent countries and prevent errors
in socio-political forecasting.
Civil society issues are the subject of many social and political studies.
The most famous studies were included in The Oxford Handbook of Civil
Society edited by Edwards (2013). Kenny (2020) presents an extended
analysis of current political discourse about civil society. But no studies
cover anthropological, in particular, socio-psychological aspects of civil
society.
Some researchers explore how such a socio-psychological phenomenon
as national character manifests itself in modern political systems (Inkeles,
2017). But these scholars do not focus on national character and mentality
in the context of building and functioning of civil society, and do not use the
data on underlying factors.
The aim of the article is to identify the role of external factors and
internal determinants of national character and political mentality
in building and functioning of civil society.
This aim involves the fullment of the following research objectives:
compare the state of civil society in dierent countries with the
climatic conditions of their location.
correlate such characteristics of civil society as ‘openness’ and
‘closedness’ with the dominant religion.
analyze the dependence of the state of civil society on the factors
that determine the feeling of happiness inherent in a certain type of
national character.
1. Literature Review
For contemporary scholars, social activists and development
professionals, civil society is a collection of diverse interest groups and social
organizations. Most cited dictionaries propose to interpret civil society as
the ‘third sector’ of society, “the set of intermediate associations which are
neither the state nor the (extended) family; civil society, therefore, includes
voluntary associations and rms, as well as other corporate bodies” (McLean
and McMillan, 2009), or more teleologically as “the organizations within a
society that works to promote the common good, usually taken to include
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Vol. 39 Nº 69 (Julio - Diciembre 2021): 774-795
state-run institutions, families, charities, and community groups” (Collins
Online English Dictionary, 2021).
Those interpretations of this term are based on the positions of
institutionalism. They are linked to the rationalism of the Renaissance
and the Enlightenment and are rooted in the works of Machiavelli, Moore,
Hobbes, Locke, de Saint-Simon. But these main current usages are derived
from Hegel’s liberal theory adapted by de Tocqueville, Marx, and Tönnies.
Edwards (2013) points out to the shortcomings of this interpretation, which
caused a mimicry of the essence of civil society concept:
“First, a conversation about democracy and self-expression has become
increasingly technocratic, dominated by elites who seek to shape civil society for
their ends and increasingly mimicking the language and practices of businesses
and market-based investment. Second, much current civil society research,
funding, and policymaking are highly ethnocentric, informed by a partial reading
of work dating back to the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville in mid-nineteenth-
century America which placed voluntary associations of various kinds at the
centre of thinking and action of civil society, but later translated to settings with
completely dierent cultures of collective action, histories, and contemporary
conditions. It is this sense of mimicry that has stimulated the export of models
developed in North America and Western Europe to other parts of the world with
unsurprisingly disappointing results” (Edwards, 2013: 7).
The analysis of these failures leads to the assumption that “perhaps there
is something written into the genetic code of human beings that resists
attempts to bureaucratize the self-organizing principles of civil society or
reduce citizen action to a subset of the market” (ibid). This assumption is
not further developed by Edwards (2013) or other authors, but it is the rst
element in the structure of our hypothesis because the common genetic
code is the factor that forms the basis of the ethnos.
We make an ascent from ethnos as a genetic community to ethos as a
moral community for further theoretical substantiation of the hypothesis
about predetermined establishment of civil society. It should be noted that
the term “civil society” goes back to Aristotle’s phrase koinōnía politikḗ
(κοινωνία πολιτική) in his Politics, where it refers to a “political community,
commensurate with the Greek city-state (polis) characterized by a shared
ethos (Lord, 2013). Ethos is a Greek word meaning “character” that is used
to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community,
nation, or ideology. In modern usage, ethos denotes the disposition,
character, or fundamental values peculiar to a specic person or group
(national ethos) (Cambridge Dictionary, 2021). So, the ethos is a moral core
of a national character and political mentality, it is the so-called “spirit of
people”. According to Aristotle, it denes the forms of civil society.
It is necessary to consider the factors that determine the specics of the
ethos of dierent peoples to show how the national character inuences
778
Serhii O. Komnatnyi, Oleg S. Sheremet, Viacheslav E. Suslykov, Kateryna S. Lisova y Stepan
D. Svorak
The role of the factors determining national character in building civil society
the building of civil society. Thus, the logic of the development of the
theoretical substantiation of our hypothesis leads the focus of the study
to Montesquieu’s meteorological climate theory, outlined in The Spirit of
Law (1748). This concept holds that climate may substantially inuence
the nature of man and his society. Initially, Montesquieu showed how
climate aects the peculiarities of individual character and national ethos.
He argued that the feebleness of peoples of warm climates almost always
made slaves of them, and the courage of peoples of cold climates kept them
free. That is an eect that derives from its natural cause (Stewart, 2018).
Then he proved the dependence of social order and social norms on these
determinants:
If it is true that the character of the mind and the passions of the heart are
extremely dierent in the various climates, laws must be relative both to the
dierence of those passions and the dierence of those characters… Laws have a
very great relationship to how various peoples procure their subsistence (Stewart,
2018: 32).
Modern researchers conrmed those ndings. McCrae et al., (2007),
that warmth and wealth are common determinants of national stereotypes,
but that there are also idiosyncratic inuences on the perceptions of
individual nations.
Religion is the next key factor determining the formation of ethos, and
hence – civil society. Thinkers have pointed to this factor since ancient
times. Stewart (2018) argued the same as well. The Christian religion
commands men to love each other, so there is no doubt that every people
should have the best political laws and the best civil laws, because they are,
next to themselves, the greatest good that men can give and receive. That
moderate government is more compatible with the Christian religion, and
despotic government — with the Mohammedan religion.
The “spirit of the nations” from Weber (2002) The Protestant Ethic and
the Spirit of Capitalism cannot be ignored in this context. After dening
the “spirit of capitalism” in Germany, Weber argued that there are many
reasons to nd its origins in the religious ideas of the Reformation. Then he
attributed this relationship between capitalism and Protestantism to certain
accidental psychological consequences of the notions of predestination and
calling in Puritan theology. It is important how Weber revealed its role in
building certain forms of civil society:
So that a manner of a life well adapted to the peculiarities of the capitalism…
could come to dominate others, it had to originate somewhere, and not in isolated
individuals alone, but as a way of life common to the whole groups of man (Weber,
2002: 78).
Current researchers conrm the inuence of religious ethical norms
enshrined in the mentality on the formation of such components of civil
779
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society as truth and social distance. In particular, Dingley (2009) argues
that national identity is closely linked to the religion, which in turn is
closely linked to the ideas of truth. Dierent religions will form and
transmit dierent ideas of truth, both moral and cognitive, and transmit
them and socialize their members into holding them. The ndings of Bilali
et al., (2018) the importance of considering religious identity and meaning
attached to social categories in making predictions about the inuence of
identication with dierent social categories on social distance.
It should be noted that, thinkers considered civility as an orientation
toward the common good and happiness from the time of classical Greece.
Edwards (2013) emphasizes: “How do the structures of associational life
and the dynamics of the public sphere help or hinder the achievement of
“good society” goals? This is the most important question in the civil society
debate”. This question comes from the lifelong problem of the existence of a
free individual in a society. Although each person has a sense of happiness,
individuals must reach a public agreement on interaction to achieve “the
greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” in the process of
communication. Helliwell et al., (2020) help to formulate the answer.
The primary result from their empirical analysis of the social
environment is that several kinds of individual and social trust, as well as
social connections have large direct and indirect impacts on life evaluation.
The indirect impacts, which are measured by allowing the eects of trust to
buer the estimated well-being eects of bad times, show that both social
trust and institutional trust reduce the inequality of well-being by increasing
the resilience of individual well-being to various types of adversity, including
perceived discrimination, ill-health, unemployment, low income, and fear
when walking the streets at night. Average life satisfaction is estimated to
be almost one point higher (0.96 points) in a high-trust environment as
compared to a low-trust environment. These researches also argue that the
social environment is dealt with in detail, they consider happiness in the
Nordic countries and nd that higher personal and institutional trust are
key factors in explaining why life evaluations are so high in those countries.
Together the changes in trust and social connections explain 60% of
the happiness gap between the Nordic countries and Europe as a whole
(Helliwell et al., 2020).
Social origins theory helps us to discover the meaning of the national
“happiness formula” as well. This theory is used to analyse results of the
national survey on civic participation in Sweden. The results show that
such civic virtue as charitable giving is a component of the Swedish national
character, and has a signicant impact on civil society functioning. From
this point of view, we can agree with Mahajan (2021) interpretation of civil
society as a sphere where the collective “we” emerges and acts to arm the
Kantian ideals of human dignity and equal respect.
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Serhii O. Komnatnyi, Oleg S. Sheremet, Viacheslav E. Suslykov, Kateryna S. Lisova y Stepan
D. Svorak
The role of the factors determining national character in building civil society
2. Methods
A critical analysis of modern concepts of civil society and consideration
of scientic approaches to understanding deep predetermination of
national character and mentality as the driving forces of building civil
society is the background for substantiating the research methodology.
This methodology is designed to reveal the anthropocentric but not always
rationalistic essence of building civil society. Therefore, we take climatic
conditions as the rst variable in our research. Then, religion acts as the
second variable in our research. And we chose the feeling of happiness
as the third variable in our research, which comprehensively reects the
inuence of national character on building civil society.
The methods are consistent with the aim and objectives of this research
and include:
- the comparative analysis of the state of civil society in dierent
countries and their climatic conditions.
- the search for correlation between such characteristics of civil society
as “openness” and “closedness” with the dominant religion.
- the analysis of the statistical data of happiness index in dierent
countries and the calculation of its average value in “open society”
and “closed society” countries.
- summarizing the data from these analyses and drawing a conclusion
about the role of the factors determining national character in
building civil society.
The research materials are based on:
- the data from global studies on the state of civil society in dierent
countries, published by international civil society organization
CIVICUS (2019): World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
- the data on climatic conditions (Provisional Report on the State
of the Global Climate 2020, Climate Zone Shiny Map 2020 and
World Climate Maps 2020 demonstrated by World Meteorological
Organization (2020a; 2020b; 2021).
- the data about religion in the world (The Global Religious Landscape
2020: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major
Religious Groups presented by CIA World Factbook (2020), and Pew
Research Center (2020).
- the data on happiness indexes in dierent countries (World
Happiness Report 2020 prepared by UN Sustainable Development
Solutions Network, and Center for Sustainable Development
Columbia University (Helliwell et al. 2020)).
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For clarity of research results, the research sample includes countries
that belong to the two ultimate categories: “open society” 19 countries,
and “closed society” 18 countries, by CIVICUS (2019): The State of Civil
Society.
3. Results
The research results are presented in the tables prepared by the author
using the materials mentioned above and subsequent data analysis.
The rst block (Tables 1 and 2) shows the dependence of the level of
openness of civil society on climatic indicators of temperature and humidity.
Table 1. Climatic factor in “open society” countries
# Country Climate zone Winter
t (C
o
) -
zone
Summer
t (C
o
) -
zone
Wet zone
(mm per
year)
1 Canada
(main part)
Temperate / Subpolar -24 -8 +8 +16 500-1000
2 Iceland Temperate / Subpolar -8 +8 500-1000
3 Norway Temperate / Subpolar 0 +12 500-1000
4 Sweden Temperate / Subpolar 0 +12 500-1000
5 Finland Temperate / Subpolar 0 +12 500-1000
6 Denmark Temperate 0 +16 500-1000
7 Estonia Temperate 0 +16 500-1000
8 Lithuania Temperate 0 +16 500-1000
9 Germany Temperate 0 +16 500-1000
10 Netherland Temperate 0 +16 500-1000
11 Belgium Temperate 0 +16 500-1000
12 Czech Rep. Temperate 0 +20 500-1000
13 Austria Temperate 0 +20 500-1000
14 Switzerland Temperate 0 +20 500-1000
15 Ireland Temperate +8 +16 1000-2000
16 Portugal Subtropical +8 +22 500-1000
17 New Zeeland Temperate / Subtropical +8 +16 1000-2000
18 Uruguay Subtropical +8 +16 500-1000
19 Surinam Tropical +24 +24 2000-3000
Source: Based on World Meteorological Organization (2020a; 2020b 2021).
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Serhii O. Komnatnyi, Oleg S. Sheremet, Viacheslav E. Suslykov, Kateryna S. Lisova y Stepan
D. Svorak
The role of the factors determining national character in building civil society
Out of the 19 ‘open society’ countries, 16 countries (84%) are located in
the temperate zone (including 5 that combine the temperate and subpolar
zones, and 1 (New Zeeland) with the temperate and subtropical zones). 2
countries are located in subtropics and 1 (Surinam) in tropics. Moreover, all
countries are located in more or less humid zones. None of these countries
are located in a hot arid climate. Only in Canada, due to its vast territory,
there are areas of continental climate, but cold.
Table 2. Climatic factor in ‘closed-society’ countries
# Country Climate zone Winter
t (C
o
) -
zone
Summer
t (C
o
) -
zone
Wet zone
(mm per
year)
1 China
(main part)
Temperate /
Subtropical
-24 +8 +16 +24 250-1000
2 Lao People
Democratic Rep.
Tropical +24 +24 1000-2000
3 Viet Nam Tropi