Political culture and the consequences of revolutionary change: Workplace democracy and local politics in rural Portugal

Date of Completion

January 1997


Political Science, General|Sociology, General




Using a case study approach, the author examines the long-term impact of the Portuguese social revolution of April, 1974--and the radical agrarian reform which accompanied it--on the political culture and behavior of rural farm workers in the southern interior region of the Alentejo. In doing so, it seeks to answer three main questions: (1) what are the long-term impacts of a revolutionary political transition on the political culture and behavior of non-elites? (2) does a democratic workplace lead to significant changes in workers' political culture outside the firm? and (3) to what extent are regional political subcultures still relevant for Portuguese democracy?^ The revolution, and more specifically the agrarian reform, created Western Europe's largest network of worker-controlled enterprises. These farms, while not ideal-type self-managed enterprises, nevertheless represented one of Western Europe's most ambitious experiments in workplace democracy and egalitarian management until at least the mid-1980's. Based upon a comparison of ethnographic and public opinion survey data collected in 1980 and 1994, the author tests three well-known "political spillover" claims made by the workplace democracy literature: (1) that participation in democratized enterprises leads to increased levels of conventional political participation; (2) that it leads to increased support for unconventional political action among members, including higher levels of revolutionary and class consciousness, and (3) that the political efficacy of workers in self-managed enterprises is higher than non-member workers in the same community.^ The findings suggest that the impact of the revolutionary changes in land-holding structures, local political power, and management hierarchies on rural Portuguese political culture were relatively short-lived. Continuities in rural political culture inherited from before the revolution, combined with significant changes in the macroeconomic and demographic context of the region, may have helped undermine the potential political and civic "spillover" of the workers' control experience. Finally, despite the persistence of distinctive regional political subcultures, greater cultural homogenization within Portugal is considered likely as modernization and European integration proceed. ^