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American Political Culture


Chapter Four American Political Culture * – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Political Culture

Chapter Four
  • American Political Culture

  • Politically, there are three main differences
    among countries constitutional, demographic, and
  • Culture is very important when it comes to
    politics and govt. However, it is the most
    difficult to analyze.

What is Culture?
  • According to Websters culture may have the
    following meanings
  • the act of developing the intellectual and moral
    faculties especially by education
  • enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by
    intellectual and aesthetic training
  • acquaintance with and taste in fine arts,
    humanities, and broad aspects of science as
    distinguished from vocational and technical
  • the integrated pattern of human knowledge,
    belief, and behavior that depends upon the
    capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge
    to succeeding generations
  • the customary beliefs, social forms, and material
    traits of a racial, religious, or social group
    also the characteristic features of everyday
    existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared
    by people in a place or time

Political Culture
  • Political Culture A distinctive and patterned
    way of thinking about how political and economic
    life ought to be carried out

Modern Democracies with Different Political
  • Most modern democracies have vastly different
    political cultures--why?
  • Demographic differences (religion, ethnicity,
    population, etc.)
  • Historical development of individual countries
    plays a large role in the development of class
  • Differing ideas of the proper role of government

American Political Values
  • When it comes to the American view of politics
    there are at least five important elements
  • Liberty rights
  • Equality equal vote equal chance to
    participate and succeed
  • Democracy government is accountable to the
  • Civic duty take community affairs seriously and
    become involved when possible
  • Individual responsibility individuals
    responsible for their own actions and well-being

Questions About Political Culture
  • How do we know people share these beliefs?
  • There is no exact way to prove that all Americans
    hold the above characteristics in the same
  • However, studies and polls infer that these
    values are held by many Americans.
  • How do we explain behavior inconsistent with
    these beliefs?
  • It is a fact that people act contrary to their
    professed beliefs.
  • Besides values, self-interest and social
    circumstances also shape behavior.
  • Why is there so much political conflict in U.S.
  • Political values may be irrelevant to specific
  • Not every persons perception of the values mean
    the same thing.

Beliefs About Economics
  • Americans support free enterprise, but support
    some limits on marketplace freedom
  • Americans believe in equality of opportunity
    but not equality of result
  • Americans have a widely shared commitment to
    economic individualism
  • What are the roles of welfare and civil rights in
    this situation? (See p.80)

The Civic Role of Religion
  • Americans are more religious than most citizens
    in European democracies
  • Religious views greatly affect politics
  • 1730-1740s, the First Great Awakening eventually
    led to the colonists break with English rule
  • Both liberals and conservatives have used the
    pulpit to promote political change
  • 1950s-1960s, Civil rights movement was led by
    black religious leaders
  • In the 1980s and 1990s, conservative Christian
    groups (Moral Majority and Christian Coalition)
    became a strong political force in all levels of
  • See pgs.82-83

American Political Culture
  • Americans tend to assert their rights
  • Emphasize liberty, individualism, competition,
    equality, following rules, treating others fairly
    but impersonally
  • Some other countries put more emphasis on harmony
    and equality

Civic Duty and Competence
  • Civic duty a belief that one has an obligation
    to participate in civic and political affairs
  • Civic competence a belief that one can affect
    government policies

Sources of Political Culture
  • American Revolution was essentially over
    libertyasserting rights
  • Widespread (not universal) participation
    permitted by Constitution
  • Absence of an established national religion made
    religious diversity inevitable
  • Family instills how we think about world and
  • Not a high degree of class consciousness

The Culture War
  • The cultural clash in America is a battle over
  • The culture war differs from political disputes
  • The culture conflict is animated by deep
    differences in peoples beliefs about morality

Two Cultural Camps
  • The idea that there are two broadly defined
    social classes in the U.S. was first developed by
    James Davison Hunter.
  • Orthodox morality is as, or more, important than
    self-expression morality derives from fixed
    rules from God
  • Progressive personal freedom is as, or more,
    important than tradition rules change based on
    circumstances of modern life and individual
  • See pgs.85-86

Mistrust of Government
  • There is evidence that mistrust of govt
    officials has increased since the late 1950s
  • Causes
  • Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, the Clinton
    impeachment, and the Iraqi War
  • Public confidence is likely to ebb and flow with

Figure 4.2 External Political Efficacy Index,
Political Efficacy
  • Political efficacy citizens capacity to
    understand and influence political events
  • Internal efficacy confidence in ones ability to
    understand and influence events
  • No major changes since the 1950s-1960s
  • External efficacy belief that system will
    respond to citizens
  • Drastically declined since the 1960s

Political Tolerance
  • A minimal level of tolerance is crucial to
    democratic politics
  • What is tolerance? According to Websters
  • sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices
    differing from or conflicting with one's own
  • the act of allowing something
  • the allowable deviation from a standard
  • Most Americans support tolerance in the abstract
    however, most Americans would also deny these
    rights in specific cases
  • See p.89

How Very Unpopular Groups Survive
  • Most people do not act on their beliefs
  • Officeholders and activists are more tolerant
    than the general public
  • Usually there is no consensus on whom to
  • Courts are sufficiently insulated from public
    opinion to enforce constitutional protections