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Beyond political culture


Beyond political culture Warsaw, May-June 2009 Lectures Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869) Meanings Organization(s)/ institutions Resources Interaction (basic unit ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Beyond political culture

Beyond political culture
  • Warsaw, May-June 2009 Lectures

Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869)
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Interaction (basic unit of the society)
  • Comments on the chart
  • At the outset of an interaction the participating
    actors are in symmetrical or asymmetrical (more
    often) positions initial power differential.
  • Interaction actualizes this differential and may
    change it final/outcome power differential.
  • Interaction is ALWAYS an act of communication
  • Interaction is ALWAYS carried our within some
    (institutional) constraints.
  • Interaction has ALWAYS (?) an impact on the
    distribution of resources (sometimes indirectly
    see Goodin and Klingemann on this point
  • Interaction can be usefully modeled as a game
    (with rational actors).

(Political) Field
Definitions of politics
  • Institutional
  • Politics might best be characterized as the
    constrained use of social power.
  • The study of politics the study of the nature
    and sources of those constraints and the
    techniques for the use of social power within
    those constraints (7).1
  • Material-institutional
  • "A conception of politics as decision making and
    resource allocation is at least as old as Plato
    and Aristotle" (47) Laswells who gets what
    when and how.
  • "the organizing principle of a political system
    is the allocation of scarce resources in the face
    of conflict of interests
  • 1 Robert Gooding and Hans-Dieter Klingemann (A
    New Handbook of Political Science, Oxford, 1996)

Definitions of politics
  • 3. Structural

From Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow and Charles
Tilly, Dynamics of Contention
Definitions of politics
  • "Although there are exceptions, the modern
    perspective in political science has generally
    given primacy to substantive outcomes and either
    ignored symbolic actions or seen symbols as part
    of manipulative efforts to control outcomes." /?
    These challenges echo another ancient theme of
    political thought, the idea that politics
    creates, confirms, or modifies interpretations of
    life. Through politics, individuals develop
    their identities, their communities, and the
    public good" (March, Olsen, 198947-48).
  • Cultural-institutional
  • "Politics is usually conducted as if identity
    were fixed. The question then becomes, on what
    basis, at different times in different places,
    does the nonfixity become temporarily fixed in
    such a way that individuals and groups can behave
    as a particular kind of agency, political or
    otherwise? How do people become shaped into
    acting subjects, understanding themselves in
    particular ways? In effect, politics consists of
    the effort to domesticate the infinitude of
    identity. It is the attempt to hegemonize
    identity, to order it into a strong programmatic
    statement. If identity is decentered, politics
    is about the attempt to create a center."1
  • 1 Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B.
    Ortner, "Introduction" to Culture/Power/History.
    A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, Nicholas
    B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner,
    editors, 1994, Princeton Princeton University
    Press 32.

Definitions of culture total/global
  • Total concept of culture
  • E.B.Tylor (Primitive Culture, 1871)
  • Culture is "that complex whole which includes
    knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and
    any other capabilities and habits acquired by man
    as a member of society."

Selective definitions
  • Psycho-social
  • Almond and Bingham Powell, Jr., (196623)
  • Culture "attitudes, beliefs, values and skills
    which are current in an entire population, as
    well as those special propensities and patterns
    which may be found within separate parts of that
  • Semiotic
  • Clifford Geertz (1973145)
  • "Culture is the fabric of meaning in terms of
    which human beings interpret their experience and
    guide their action social structure is the form
    that action takes, the actually existing network
    of social relations. Culture and social
    structure are then but different abstractions
    from the same phenomena."

Ann Swidler (1986273)
  • Culture consists of such symbolic vehicles of
    meaning, including beliefs, ritual practices, art
    forms, and ceremonies, as well as informal
    cultural practices such as language, gossip,
    stories, and rituals of daily life. These
    symbolic forms are the means through which
    'social process of sharing modes of behavior and
    outlook within a community' (Hannerz, 1969184)
    take place.

Political culture (psycho-social Almond and
Verba (196315)
  • Political culture is "a people's predominant
    beliefs, attitudes, values, ideals, sentiments,
    and evaluations about the political system of its
    country, and the role of the self in that
  • (196313) culture "a set of orientations toward
    ... social objects
  • political culture "orientations toward
    specifically political objects"

Political culture (semiotic) Gamson (1988220)
  • "A nonredundant concept of political culture
    refers to the meaning systems that are culturally
    available for talking, writing, and thinking
    about political objects the myths and metaphors,
    the language and idea elements, the frames,
    ideologies, values, and condensing symbols."

Six pairs of contrasts
  • Psycho-social (culture as attitudes) versus
    semiotic (culture as texts)
  • Culture as a constraint (Geertz) versus culture
    as a resource (utilitarian) (Cohen)
  • Public (inter-subjective, collective) versus
    individual level Hannertz versus StraussQuinn
  • Emic (natives point of view) versus etic
  • Holism (Huntington) versus individualism (game
  • Semiotic system (structuralism) versus (social)
    practice (post-structuralism)

Four possible conceptualizations of the elements
of culture
Elements of culture as constraints Elements of culture as resources
Psycho-social (attitudes) Attitudes as constraints (homo sovieticus)
Semiotic (signs) Symbols as tools of manipulation
Ulf Hannertz Cultural Complexity Studies in the
Social Organization of Meaning (7).
  • Three dimension of culture
  • Ideas and modes of thought as entities and
    processes of the mind
  • Forms of externalization, the different ways in
    which meaning is made accessible to the senses,
    made public
  • Social distribution, the ways in which the
    collective inventory of meanings and meaningful
    external forms - is spread over a population and
    its social relationship.

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