The Problem with Forming Political Culture in Ukraine: Lessons from Western Political Philosophy
"What must be done in our country, in order for the transition from totalitarianism to a democratic and open society be carried out?" began Valentyn Gusiev, Professor of Philosophy and Head of Department, Department of Philosophy and Religious Study, University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and Regional Exchange Scholar, Kennan Institute, at a 5 May 2003 Kennan Institute lecture. He noted that Ukraine and other post-communist countries have been faced with many difficult problems that make the decision to create a modern democratic society and effective economy nearly impossible.
Gusiev explained that one central problem for post-Soviet Ukrainians is the formation of appropriate political and legal culture in Ukraine. He said that the population's active participation in political and economic reforms depends "directly on the level of their understanding and their ability to realize the sense and value of these reforms." Without population's active support, Gusiev added, such transformations cannot be effective. He stated that the political elite in modern Ukraine often declares that the main objective of political reforms is the "construction of the legal democratic state." However, representatives of political forces still remain burdened by "old beliefs and stereotypes, and they do not always realize what it means to construct a legal democratic state."
Gusiev noted that the interpretation of the legal state "does not go farther than the slogan ‘dictatorship of the law.'" He mentioned that the establishment of legality, order, and equality of all under the law, would be "a huge step forward on the way to a legal state." Gusiev said that this would be a very important step, but it is "far from being achieved" because the law itself "should be legal or right." He explained that, according to the concept of the natural right, there is a "natural right or law which is the expression of divine will." Its major feature is that "natural laws determine the existence of the person irrespective of the existence of the state."
When speaking about the problem of the formation of political and legal culture in Ukraine, Gusiev referred to two central issues. First, the Ukrainian politicians must have a clear understanding of "fundamental principles that form the basis of a democratic social order." Second, he referred to the need to develop an appropriate system of values in which "our citizens would have the right orientation into current political processes." Gusiev noted that much of Ukraine's population is disoriented; that is, "the old system of values has been destroyed, and the new one has not been generated." According to Gusiev, the most important of these values is freedom. Unfortunately, Gusiev continued, Ukrainian politicians do not speak about freedom as a main priority in their political activity, and do not promise to protect it.
In conclusion, Gusiev noted that Ukraine could not form an appropriate political and legal culture without "mastering the experience of western political and philosophical thought." The real participation in political processes must play a main role but the participants "should know what they are doing and for what purpose."