CRS Comp Questions: Political Cultures and Political Attitudes
1. Discuss whether/how the study of political culture improves our understanding of socio-political phenomena.
2. Some scholars praise the importance of "social capital" in maintaining a viable representative democracy and promoting economic affluence, whereas others dismiss it. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the major conceptualizations of social capital as they have been debated in the literature.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the project of political culture scholars (e.g., Ronald Inglehart) to survey "world values" and then to arrange them on a two dimensional continuum?
4. Assess the research in the subfield of political culture. What are some of the major arguments? To what extent do you find them convincing? How strong is the evidence supporting the claims?
5. Are political culture and democracy related? Must one precede the other? Can democratization succeed without a compatible political culture? Can an open and pluralistic political culture fail to produce democratic governance?
6. The literature on political culture as a crucial component for establishing and maintaining a stable democratic polity. Discuss the extent to which evidence (dis)confirms this claim.
7. How does culture enter comparative inquiry? What are the competing approaches? Assess their strengths and weaknesses.
8. Can individuals possess and/or develop their social capital?
9. The concept “social capital” differs in its specifics, depending on the scholar using it. Pick two scholars of social capital. Discuss the similarities and differences of their depictions of social capital. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?


What are the major arguments regarding the field of political culture and how does it improve our understanding of socio-political phenomena?

· This question pretty much deals with the book by Inglehart and Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy (2005), and how they believe that explanations on development need to go beyond economic and social factors to include culture – basically, culture matters.
· Why Does Culture Matter?
o I&W establishes that certain societies are characterized relatively strongly by a durable set of orientations that roughly corresponds to the civic culture and that these cultural patterns shows a strong empirical linkage with stable democracy even when controlled by related aspects of social structure and economic development (more info on culture and democracy below).
o This books presents a model of social change that predicts how the value systems of given societies will evolve in coming decades – demonstrates that mass values play a crucial role in the mergence and flourishing of democratic institutions
o Diversity of basic cultural values helps to explain the huge differences that exist in how institutions perform in societies around the world
o Socioeconomic development starts from technological innovations that increase labor productivity; in the long run bringing cultural change. This change is not inevitable, however, if economic collapse occurs, cultural changes will tend to move in the opposite direction.
o Socioeconomic modernization, a cultural shift toward rising emphasis on self-expression values and democratization are al components of a single underlying process: human development
o Rising levels of economic development change people’s firsthand life experiences fundamentally, leading them to emphasize goals that were previously given lower priority – cultural emphasis shifts from collective discipline to individual liberty, from group conformity to human diversity, from state authority to individual autonomy – all leading to self-expression values
· Building off Weber’s Modernization Theory
o The intellectual godfather of work on political culture is Weber’s (1905) thesis linking Protestantism with capitalism. Weber sought to identify the peculiar characteristics of Protestantism that might account for the association he reported between the proportion of Protestants in various areas of Europe and the economic growth of those areas. Weber’s answer emphasized Protestantism’s challenge to medieval discipline, along with distinctive Protestant values that he believed fostered entrepreneurial skills (Jackman and Miller 1998, 5).
o Weber argued that in addition to socioeconomic development in shaping what people want and do, a society’s cultural heritage continues to shape its prevailing beliefs and motivations (FYI: Weber focuses a lot on religion).
o Modernization is evolving into a process of human development, in which socioeconomic development brings cultural changes that make individual autonomy, gender equality and democracy increasingly likely, giving rise to a new type of society that promotes human emancipation on many fronts.
o I&W intend to go beyond Weber: it is not the rationalization of authority but the emancipation from authority that becomes the dominant trend of modernization, transforming modernization into a process of human development that promotes human emancipation on all fronts (76).
· Measuring Culture
o World Values Survey
o I&W believes that there is a durable cultural component underlying survey responses – this change happens in two shifts (agrarian to industrial, industrial to post-industrial à more info on this below)
o Long-term cultural differences are so pronounced that one can readily perceive them by mere visual inspection
o Enduring cross-cultural differences exist and can be measured
o Self-expression values prove to be strongly linked with democracy than any other factor, including variables such as interpersonal trust, associational membership and GDP per capita
o Causal arrow – analysis of the causal linkage between self-expression values and democracy indicates that the causal arrow flows mainly from culture to institutions rather than the other way around
· Two Dimensions of Cultural Change
o Industrialization (shifting away from traditional values to rising secular-rational values)
§ Rational science and belief in technological progress becomes new source of authority – decline of the centrality of God with the rise in technology (no longer need to pray to God for a good harvest)
§ BUT, industrialization does not increase people’s sense of individual autonomy because of the disciplined and regimented way in which industrial societies are organized – people are embedded in uniform and rigid social classes. The industrial standardization of life discourages self-expression values
o Post-industrialization (shifting away from survival to rising self-expression values)
§ Majority of labor force no longer works in factories – spend most of time with people, symbols and information
§ Postindustrial societies attain high levels of prosperity and have welfare states that make food, clothing, shelter, housing, education and health serve available to almost everyone
§ Social ties shift from “communities of necessity” to “elective affinities” – people more independent, diminishing social constraints on human choice
§ Post-industrialization gives people a sense of human autonomy that leads them to question authority – self-expression values increase

Are political cultural and democracy related? Does one need to come before other? Can democracy succeed with a compatible political culture?
· According to Inglehart, the answer is yes, political culture and democracy are related
· Though mass democracy is almost impossible without a certain amount of economic development, economic development by itself does not produce democracy. Unless specific changes occur in culture and social structure, the result may not be democracy but something else
· Cultural differences have an important bearing on the durability of democracy, which seem to result from a complex interplay of economic, cultural and institutional factors
· Modernization theory predicts a connection between socioeconomic status and the emergence of democracy – intermediary variable is the self-expression value
· Political culture literature suggests a number of values that are key to the creation and maintenance of democracy, such as faith in public institutions, memberships in associations and norm abidingness
· Belief that civic values, rather than just specific orientations toward the political systems and its institutions, are important for democracy. Civic values that make it work effectively are those that emphasize human choice, such as self-expression values – these values are most intrinsically directed toward the emancipative essence of democracy
· Democracy requires values that emphasize human self-expression, which is intrinsically directed against discrimination and specifically focused on the liberating elements of democracy
· Three distinct approaches emphasize three difference aspects of mass culture as being most conducive to democracy
o Legitimacy Approach: institutional confidence and support for democracy
o Communitarian Approach (social capital): norm conformity, association activity and interpersonal trust – bonds (voluntary orgs, Putnam) – Note: Inglehart finds no significant relationship with formal or effective democracy – norm obedience not a sign of civic health
o Human development Approach: self-expression values, mass orientation most intrinsically relevant to democracy and its emphasis on human choice
· As human choice and autonomy expands, it brings cultural changes that make democracy the logical institutional outcome. And socioeconomic modernization brings the objective capabilities that enable people to base their lives on autonomous choices
· The information below on social capital can also be relevant for this topic, particularly Putnam’s take on social capital and the erosion of democracy


Discuss the major conceptualizations of social capital as they have been debated in the literature.

· I&W defines social capital as a culture of trust and tolerance
· Bureaucratized and elite-directed forms of participation such as voting and political party membership have declined; but intrinsically motivated, expressive and elite-challenging forms of participation have risen dramatically
· This process reflects the changing nature of social capital: social capital has not eroded but has taken a new form, leading to changing types of collective action
· Contrary to Putnam, I&W finds that there has been a substantial increase in elite-challenging in mass protests – does not find a widespread pattern of civic disengagement
· Also against Putnam, I&W does not believe that the publics of postindustrial societies are disengaging themselves from civic life in general
· Agrees with Putnam – people are deserting the old organizations like the Elks and bowling leagues, declining confidence in government
· BUT the same publics are becoming more likely to engage in types of action that do not leave written membership lists, because they are elite-challenging activities that emerge from loosely knit but wide-ranging civic networks
· Rising levels of elite-challenging activities in post-industrial societies – this trend does not indicate an erosion of social capital in general but a change in the nature of social capital, shifting from externally imposed ties based on social control mechanisms to autonomously chosen ties, which people create themselves
· Bonding vs. bridging: bonding (closed nature of in-groups) and bridging (generalized, interpersonal trust)
o According to I&W, social capital is not declining in post-industrial societies but is shifting from one form to another
o Bonding social capital and bridging social capital tend to compete with each other and cannot be maximized simultaneously
· Disagree with Putnam’s view that declining engaging with formal associations in the US indicates an erosion of social capital. His findings reflect the decline of the specific type of bonding social capital. But at the same time, bridging social capital has been increasing, as self-organized and elite-challenging collective actions have become markedly more widespread
· Other social theorists have measured activity in formal associations in order to assess levels of civic cooperation, ignoring the relevance of elite-challenging activities, although these activities also reflect the operation of societal networks, coordinated collective action and civic cooperation

PUTNAM (most of the info below I pulled from the wonder that is Wikipedia)
· In Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (1995) Putnam surveys the decline of "social capital" in the United States of America since 1950. He has described the reduction in all the forms of in-person social intercourse upon which Americans used to found, educate, and enrich the fabric of their social lives. He believes this undermines the active civil engagement a strong democracy required from its citizens.
· Putnam discusses ways in which Americans have disengaged from political involvement including decreased voter turnout, public meeting attendance, serving on committees and working with political parties.
· Putnam notes the aggregate loss in membership of many existing civic organizations and points out that the act of individual membership has not migrated to other, succeeding organizations.
· To illustrate why the decline in Americans' membership in social organizations is problematic to democracy, Putnam uses bowling as an example. Although the number of people who bowl has increased in the last 20 years, the number of people who bowl in leagues has decreased. If people bowl alone, they do not participate in social interaction and civic discussions that might occur in a league environment.
· Putnam then contrasts the countertrends of ever increasing mass-membership organizations, nonprofit organizations and support groups to the data of the General Social Survey. This data shows an aggregate decline in membership of traditional civic organizations, proving his thesis that U.S. social capital has declined.
· He then asks the obvious question "Why is US social capital eroding?" He believes the "movement of women into the workforce", the "re-potting hypothesis” (it takes time for an uproot individual to put down new roots) and other demographic changes have made little impact on the number of individuals engaging in civic associations. Instead, he looks to the technological "individualizing" of leisure time via television, Internet
· Some fundamental social and cultural preconditions for effective democracy may have been eroded in recent decades, the result of a gradual but widespread process of civic disengagement
· Putnam asserts that social capital improves the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated actions. Social capital helps:
o Resolve collective problems more easily
o Makes community advancement easier, productivity
o Widening our awareness of the many ways in which our fates are linked
o Contributes to psychological and biological processes.
· There may be other ways that Americans are engaging e.g. more small groups, social movements, and “computer mediated communication.”
o Small groups include secular and non-secular groups, discussion groups, self-help groups. These have a low link to public life.
o Social movements include black civil rights, free speech, anti Vietnam war, gay rights, women’s liberation, Earth Day, farm workers, pro-life, pro-choice. These movements drew from social capital of small groups. Movements build social capital: by building new links and identities. There is a debate over whether social movement organizations do as well as movements that draw on natural, preexisting groups and networks.
o Telecommunications: community, communion and communication are closely related. Problems: danger of too many opinions, social inequality due to lack of access and cheating and reneging are more common. There is evidence that virtually communities are most effective when they build on existing social capital.

COLEMAN, Foundations of Social Theory (1990)
· One of the first to clearly develop the idea of social capital into a general, coherent theory of social relations
· Social relationships come into existence when individuals attempt to make best use of their individual resources. Need not only be seen as components of social structures, can also be seen as resources for the individuals
· Social capital is defined by its function. It is not a single entity but a variety of different entities having two characteristics in common: they all consist of some aspect of a social structure, and they facilitate certain actions of individuals who are within the structure.
· Social capital inheres in the structure of relations between persons and among persons. It is lodged neither in individuals not in physical implements of production
· Social capital created when relations among persons change in ways that facilitate action.
· Two elements are critical to social capital: the level of trustworthiness of the social environment (which means that obligations will be repaid) and the actual extent of obligations held
· Why do rational actors create obligations?
o Anxious to repay favors, not need to want favors repaid immediately
o Creating obligations by doing favors can constitute a kind of insurance policy
· Essentially, actors have a network of “credit slips” that they can cash in for favors at a later date. Rational actors create these obligations because it becomes a kind of insurance policy. The favor one does for another also is worth more to the one receiving than the one giving.
· Information potential: One actor provides information to another. That information facilitates action.
· Norms and effective sanctions: Norms can be a powerful form of social capital. Norms can either be constraining or freeing on behavior. Young nations might follow these norms more than older.
· Authority relations: For example, when a lot of nations put their military protection in the hands of the US, they are receiving a service, and the US has a lot of social capital in the form of control. Eliminates the free-rider problem as well.
· Appropriable social organizations: An organization brought into being for one of purposes can facilitate social capital exchange.
· International organizations: Can create social capital by the ability for the group to be used for other purposes. Can also create a public good, in which whose who are not in the group may be beholden to those in the group.
· Any organization which makes possible such oppositional activities is an especially potent form of social capital for the individuals who are members of the organization
· Social organization constitutes social capital, facilitating the achievement of goals that could not be achieved in its absence or could be achieved only at a higher cost.

JACKMAN AND MILLER (1998) – critique of Putnam and Inglehart
· J&M outlines the two contending approaches to social capital. The first treats trust and related values as exogenous, where durable cultural norms drive political and economic performance. The second approach endogenizes social capital as an outcome of social and political arrangements. Jackman and Miller claim that the two approaches cannot be combined because they stem from very different assumptions, and because one of them is just wrong.
· Considering trust exogenous, however, means that take levels of trust as given and not subject to change in the short-to-medium term. In contrast, if you treat trust as endogenous, you can ask which institutions would generate social trust, assuming that levels of social trust and capital are amenable to change, and thus you can actually introduce policy prescriptions to influence them.
· Indeed, certain political institutions can help create social capital – for example, where the government protects private property, societies will invest more in the economy and there will be more growth.
· Look at social capital as resulting from rational cost/benefit analyses of actors – where there are incentives to establishing a long-term reputation for trust, there is an incentive for individuals not to cheat (sort of like how in repeated iterations of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, there is a rational incentive to cooperate even where in a single game there wouldn’t be).
· Their opinion on the arguments of Fukuyama and Inglehart: the principal limitation of these arguments stems from their attempt to repackage social capital as a cultural phenomenon. Treating social capital as culture was certainly not the intent of the original social-capital theorists and was originally kept within a rational choice framework.
· They do not like Putnam: they find that he bases his theory off of one survey question – Note: they are referencing his 1993 work on regional governance in Italy, not Bowling Alone
· Not too fond of Inglehart either: his judgment that culture matters hinges on an indefensible temporal order of the dependent and independent variables – we’re informed that current social capital drives growth that has already occurred. Also find that many of his bivariate associations are at best intermittently significant with other factors controlled.
· In their view, social capital is best viewed endogenously (a result of existing institutions, like in the "law merchant" article and others) rather than exogenously (as a product of political culture, as Putnam and Inglehart view it). Social capital is not so much a feature of culture (and thus exogenous and stable) so much as it is created by conditions and institutions (and thus endogenous).
· Conclusion: Recent discussions of social capital in political science have strayed considerably from the original argument. Most notably, the original argument casts social capital as endogenous, whereas recent treatments have returned to the earlier political-culture tradition, which treats values as exogenous.
· Endogenizing social capital is more consistent with the social-capital argument as originally formulated. Where the old political-culture argument is plagued by logical lapses, the endogenous social capital argument is consistent with a broader theoretical approach and accounts for important phenomena in a coherent manner. On a more practical level, it has more useful policy implications that can account for observed change.