Denis-Constant Martin

The emergence of political movements, which have recently taken the centre stage in Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharian Africa, has raised once again the question of the preconditions for, and the forms of, political change. In particular it draws attention to the relationship between lasting phenomena -those which, at least in certain respects, indicate social continuity - and phenomena which fundamentally disturb the social order bringing in their wake immediate change. One two-fold interpretation of these developments has been particularly persuasive. On the one hand, as far as Europe is concerned, it is suggested that there has been a "return to a previously flouted identity" or "refinding of the past". As for Africa, these changes are described in terms of "tribalism" or "clanish reactions". Unfortunately such an interpretation does not help us to fully understand the interactions between long-lasting and short-lived phenomena. The paper proposes several ways to go beyond this dichotomy and to avoid over or underestimating phenomena of one kind to the detriment of those of the other. It suggests that the cultural impregnation of political systems, practices and representations can be analytically reconstructed within the concept of "political culture". This concept both embraces the idea of dynamism (giving impetus to political innovation) while taking into account the complexity of the means of transmission (assuring continuity). Arguing from the assumption that continuity feeds innovation, this paper examines three types of duality: the dialectic between external and internal dynamics; the emotional/rational dichotomy and the opposition between tradition and innovation. All of these must be observed both within the "official" political arena as well as in contexts that, while ostensibly non-political, can be "invested" by political thought and action.