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American Political Culture


The fundamental assumptions that Americans tend to show agreement with ... Some say we are becoming more ALIENATED we do like sending messages to incumbent parties. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Political Culture

American Political Culture
  • A Replacement Discussion for James Q. Wilsons
    Chapter 4 yes Im justifying a power point!

Political Culture
  • Definition a distinct and patterned way of
    thinking about how political and economic life
    ought to be carried out
  • Great what does that mean?

Culture v. Ideology
  • Culture
  • The fundamental assumptions that Americans tend
    to show agreement with
  • Helps to make our system distinct from other
  • Impossible to replicate
  • Ideology
  • A coherent (??) set of values and beliefs about
    public policy
  • Core political and economic values that separate
    us within a system
  • Can unite across national boundaries

Culture vs. Ideology
  • Culture
  • WE believe in the concepts of
  • Liberty
  • Equality
  • Democracy
  • Civic Duty
  • Individual Responsibility
  • Rule by Law
  • Ideology
  • We disagree on the degree of
  • Liberty
  • Equality
  • Democracy
  • Civic Duty
  • Individual Responsibility
  • Rule by Law

  • Americans are preoccupied with their rights. (C)
  • They believe they should be free to do pretty
    much as they please, with some exceptions, so
    long as they dont hurt anybody. (C)
  • But how much liberty are we comfortable with?
    And how much will we demand? (I)

  • Americans believe everybody should have an
    equal vote and an equal chance to participate and
    succeed. (C)
  • Or at least we claim to! (C or I?)
  • But how much equality will we demand? (I)

  • Americans believe that government officials
    should be accountable to the people. (C)
  • Unless the politicians are listening to the other
    side?! (I)

Civic Duty
  • Americans generally feel people ought to take
    community affairs seriously and help out when
    they can (C)
  • We believe in voting, serving (military or
    community), paying taxes, jury duty, and charity
  • BUT complain about it all! (except for charity -

Individual Responsibility
  • For the most part, Americans believe that
    individuals are responsible for their own actions
    and well-being. (C)
  • And each has a safety net concept they seem to
    adopt. (C)
  • But some nets are large, others small, some have
    small holes, others want huge holes. (I)

Rule by Law
  • Americans accept that our political system
    creates a system of laws that will be enforced by
    police and reinforced by courts and prisons. (C)
  • Yet not all accept the system as just, fair, or
    even honest (I)

Cultural Conflicts
  • Are there conflicts inherent in our culture?
  • Between the cultural values?
  • Within the cultural values?
  • Theory v. Reality
  • Creed v. Behavior
  • Political v. Economic
  • Most argue that we simple have ideological
    differences within a unifying political culture
    we agree to disagree in a system we accept.

Ideology vs Party
  • Ideology
  • Terms Moderate, Conservative, Liberal
  • A set of philosophical beliefs that people
    adhere to as they examine political realities,
    issues, and goals
  • Party
  • Terms Democrat, Republican, Independent
  • A team of people that you join who have similar
    ideologies in order to help you accomplish goals
    in the political arena

So lets talk
  • I define myself as
  • Choose from the following
  • Moderate
  • Conservative
  • Liberal
  • Democrat
  • Republican
  • Independent
  • Other
  • Dont Know
  • What do these mean?
  • Moderate
  • Conservative
  • Liberal
  • Democrat
  • Republican
  • Independent
  • Other

A Great Resource
  • Play with the following chart
  • http//
  • Does it help you understand?
  • What do you not understand?
  • What do you disagree with?
  • How could we improve it?

Do we have an emerging CULTURE WAR?
  • Some argue that 2 distinct political cultures are
    developing not just two ideological groups (red
    v blue).
  • Support their argument
  • Lets take a look
  • http//
  • http//
  • What will Tuesday show us???????

Mistrust of Government
  • Has mistrust of government become another
    cultural value?
  • Since the mid-1950s, the of Americans claiming
    they trust government to do the right thing has
    steadily declined.
  • WHY?
  • Is it the system or the individuals in the system
    that they dont trust?

Civic Competence
  • Defined as a belief that one can affect
    government policies.
  • As compared to most European nations while we
    lag behind most in voter participation (yet have
    far more elections to vote in), we are more
    active with
  • Campaigning and contributing
  • Attending political meetings
  • Being active in community affairs
  • Contacting government

Political Efficacy
  • Defined as a citizens capacity to understand
    and influence political events
  • Internal efficacy the ability to understand and
    take part in political affairs
  • External efficacy the ability to make the
    system respond to me
  • Where are Americans?
  • Internal is high and constant
  • External is high, yet declining some
  • Some say we are becoming more ALIENATED we do
    like sending messages to incumbent parties.

The Civic Role of Religion
  • Since our founding, there has been a greater
    civic role for religion than found in Europe.
  • Over last 20 years, more Americans claim a
    religious focus in their lives.
  • Religion attracts many as much for its civic as
    for its spiritual importance Wilson p. 82

Religion and Politics Today?
  • What is the appropriate role for religion in our
    political system?

Political Tolerance
  • Democracy relies on reasonable tolerance.
  • We accept that
  • The unpopular can be heard
  • The media wont be censored (at least not
  • Demonstrations (at least the peaceful ones) are
    not to be broken up by hostile mobs
  • Losers in elections accept the position of the
  • So where do we struggle?

Which group should be allowed to
  • Use the AHS facilities?
  • Protestants holding a revival meeting
  • Right-to-life groups opposing abortion
  • People organizing for the disabled rights
  • People organizing for homosexual rights
  • Atheists preaching against God
  • Communists discussing equality
  • Ku Klux Klan discussing laundry
  • Students organizing a sit-in to shut down

Which person should be allowed to
  • Speak at AHS in a classroom?
  • An admitted communist?
  • Someone who opposes churches and religion?
  • Someone who favors government ownership of
    transportation industries?
  • Someone who believes that African- Americans are
    genetically inferior?

How did our culture develop?
  • Adversarial nature of our founding and its need
    for unity
  • Our religious, regional, economic, political,
    cultural, intellectual, racial, and social
  • Our economic, political, and social history

Alexis de Tocqueville says
  • There is no other country, proportionately to
    population, where there are so few ignorant and
    so few learned.
  • In America most rich men began by being poor
  • Men there are nearer equality in wealth and
    mental endowments, or, in other words, more
    nearly equally powerful, than in any other
    country of the world or in any other age of
    recorded history.

And he says
  • The inhabitant of the US learns from birth that
    he must rely on himself to combat the ills and
    trials of life he is restless and defiant in his
    outlook toward the authority of society and
    appeals to its power only when he cannot do
  • The more I observe the main effects of a free
    press, the more convinced am I that, in the
    modern world, freedom of the press is the
    principal and constitutive element of freedom.

  • In the US it is not only mores that are
    controlled by religion, but its sway extends even
    over reason.
  • It has been saidthat our contemporaries love
    equality much more ardently and tenaciously than
  • Not only does democracy make men forget their
    ancestors, but also clouds their view of
    descendants and isolates them from their

So you say
  • What did he mean when he was writing in the
  • Do his observations hold today?

So our next topic
  • What divides us most race or class?

The End
  • Thanks for your generous applause.
  • Gifts can be donated at the front of the room.