A Sculpture of Culture

Left: Professor                                Center: Student                                    Right: Gadfly

  1. Today we examine how culture operates.[i]
  2.    For people share a social and political culture,
  3.       And there are verbal and non-verbal narratives,
  4.            In every country.
  5. Culture does not account for all:
  6.    Behaviors, values, and institutions.
  7. Culture is not comprised of:
  8.    Specific formal units with access cards,
  9. Nor does culture exhort non-contradictory harmony,
  10.     In motives or behavior as bonds.
  11. Quite different from Rational Choice.
  12. Rather, cultures embrace contestation:
  13.    In consistency, boundaries, and integration.
  14. Further, culture indirectly effects collective action.
  15.    In political life, culture is most readily measured,
  16.       Through forces of interests and institutions.
  17. Kroar gathered:
  18. In America, I hypothesize that,
  19. I could use the four quadrants,
  20. Of old / new with shun / accept,
  21. As outlined by Abbott.[ii]
  22. Strangely, Kroar appeared nervous:
  23. Professor, may I draw something on the board?
  24. Yes, Kroar, of course.
  25.    And that goes for anyone,
  26.      At anytime. Go forth.
  27. Kroar laughed and with his laptop,
  28. Projected this onto the white board:
  29. A Fellow, Wilson,
  30. Was blissfully flabbergasted:
  31. I hypothesize that action X, Y, or omega will be culturally sold,
  32. To the American people and will succeed,
  33. According to a positive / new cultural embrace…
  34. Or; historically, X, Y or omega,
  35. Will follow path dependence PO, PN, NO, or NN!
  36. This is exciting stuff!
  37. Yes, Kroar, that looks grand!
  38.    You two make it more than a specter;
  39.       That’s a paper I’d like to review,
  40.          And understand.[iii]
  41. Kroar passed pride on the stage:
  42. We can say that AE is a process that alters
  43. and reaffirms national identity.
  44. For example, AE texts include:
  45. Federalist papers, declaration of independence,
  46. Lincoln speeches, Walden, and
  47. MLK’s I have a dream.
  48. By the way, there are a few more box charts,
  49. I could draw from Abbott’s analysis.
  50. Well that’s excellent.
  51.    You know, I hear poets,
  52.        Research this stuff.
  53. Holden laughed so loud,
  54. From the inside out,
  55. That he couldn’t hear his peers,
  56. Clapping with sincerity—cheering for more.
  57. Let’s return our attention to Ross in Chapter 6,
  58.    Culture in Comparative Political Analysis.
  59.        Kroar, put the rest online for the class,
  60.           And thanks for taking a minute to describe,
  61.              A uniquely American stance.
  62.  
  63. There is the subjective evidence of survey research;
  64.    I mean, values and attitudes.
  65. There is the intersubjective shared meanings and identities;
  66.    Really, the symbols and expressions that make—
  67.        Life worth living.
  68. A student of rational choice,
  69. And later of political parties,
  70. Couldn’t help but satisfice:
  71. Are cannons of methodological individualism,
  72. Taken to be nonsense?
  73. We already denounced the hubris,
  74.    Of that overreach rational choice principle:
  75.       Recall, rational choice is not universal.
  76. Take note that culture does:
  77. (1)    Frame the context in which politics occurs;
  78. (2)    Links individual and collective identities;
  79. (3)    Defines boundaries between factions and,
  80.               Organizes interactions between them;
  81. (4)    Offers a framework for what motivates others;
  82. (5)    Explains resources for political motivation and organization.
  83. There is no sequence here, nor are all necessary in your investigation.
  84. Political priorities are ordered through culture,
  85.    Not simply self-interest according to strategic interactions.
  86.        This occurs through informal and formal cultural narratives.
  87.            According to Geertz, people share “schematic images
  88.                Of the social order.”[iv]
  89. Culture links individual and collective identities because,
  90.    Individuals and groups share significant connections,
  91.       Regarding the way to propose identity’s reinforcement.
  92. Bryce could not help himself:
  93. Now culture orders via the emotional fate all experience,
  94. While rational choice focuses on Nash-equilibrium.
  95. The professor moved on,
  96. But left him with a nod:
  97. Culture organizes group boundaries;
  98.    Map out the processes and expectations,
  99.    Patterns of association within and between them.
  100.    Variables include: kinship, age, gender or common interests.
  101.    These may vary cross-culturally and are subject to contestation.
  102. Culture accounts for the actions and motives of others;
  103.    Motives offer a mechanism to link individual action,
  104.       To the broader social setting. Indeed,
  105.         ‘Tis akin to “interests” in RC theory.[v]
  106. The professor enjoyed these examples:
  107. Hear: motivated by fear of their ancestors,
  108.    The people burned half their livestock.
  109. Here was one of those few students,
  110. Who could memorize any book:
  111. “Country X had an interest in weakening
  112. The military capacity of its enemy.”[vi]
  113. Therefore, interests in a cultural analysis,
  114.    Are but one of many motives to be considered and tracked.
  115. Culture explains resources for political motivation and organization;
  116.    Action-orientated scripts shall be written,
  117.    Collective action is solved via repertoires,
  118.       Or shared routines deliberately acted out,
  119.    And, elites may use cultural organizations,
  120.        To influence the population.
  121. Any questions about the five former things,
  122.    That culture springs?
  123. Crickets.
  124. Moving on to the psychocultural narrative:
  125.    ‘Tis excellent when researching contestation;
  126.       For these are specific accounts using key images,
  127.          The groups’ collective memory is useful to the situation.
  128.       For past events are metaphors and lessons learned,
  129.          The former are applied to present and future actions.
  130.       There are collective fears and threats to identity,
  131.          And past historic deeds and triumphs are remembered.
  132.       Record the ethnocentric stance—a morally superior carriage,
  133.          And the issuance of high in-group conformity during the stressful period.
  134.       Responsibility for the situation is always “their fault,”
  135.          And there may be rapid emotional intensity transformation.
  136. The psychocultural narrative is, for example, prevalent in Jerusalem,
  137.     And the images and contestation surrounding the Holy Sites,
  138.         Between the Jews and the Palestinians.
  139. Ross says that psychocultural narratives occupy three big political roles:
  140. (1)    As reflectors; they show deeply held cultural understandings and beliefs.
  141. (2)    As exacerbaters or inhibiters; within and/or between group differences,
  142.            Which are used to escalate or deescalate conflict,
  143.                E.g., Lustick’s (2006) the “war on terror” following 9/11.
  144. (3)  As causes of action; they frame alternatives so that the choice is made,
  145.           Accounting for what should be ignored and what should be embraced,
  146.             E.g., W. Bush framed 9/11 as terrorist attacks, on the other hand,
  147.                Clinton framed (1994) attacks on World Trade Center as criminal actions.
  148.                   I.e., the former framed the need for foreign war and total surveillance.
  149.  Public and private accounts of images and symbols are essential,
  150.    Yet simply providing a transcript of someone’s story is insufficient,
  151.      As a cultural answer.
  152. Truly, the successful narratives integrate local ethnographic
  153.    Knowledge and experience.
  154. The power of the narrative is within the core shared experiences,
  155.    Not in distinguishing idiosyncratic features.
  156. Make clear the social matrix enabling multiple people to act.
  157.    This includes what some sincerely believe others are doing,
  158.        Accounting for suspicion and uncertainty.
  159. Individuals engage internal frameworks,
  160.    And groups engage their collective memory.
  161. Someone’s illusion may sincerely impact the conflict / actions,
  162.    And thus the analysis is not flawed—just the person,
  163.        For no one is without an ounce of delusion.
  164. Indeed, accounting for the errors may illuminate the real dynamics.
  165. Different parties generally appropriate different motives,
  166.    Thus you are able to hypothesize or predict,
  167.       Each parties future actions and behavioral tendencies.
  168. Volkan (1997) for example, sees some deep-rooted ethnic conflict,
  169.     Encapsulated in aspirations, challenges, and a fear fora;
  170.        There is an observable “chosen trauma.”[vii]
  171. Culture is thus a useful enabler of peace and understanding,
  172.    For the peoples’ future, because, the research accounts explain,
  173.       Why it all went crazy.
  174. Cultural expressions and enactments create observable impacts;
  175.     See public ceremonies, religious ceremonies, festivals, T.V. programs,
  176.        Holidays, theatre, literature, public discourse, distinctive clothing,
  177.        Food, and languages.
  178. The former communicate and reinforce in-group identity. For instance,
  179.    Croft (2006) explores American political culture; e.g.,
  180.       Films, human and political discourse, and T.V.,
  181.          “to explain how the war on terror has become naturalized
  182.               And used to promote the Bush administration’s
  183.                  Domestic and foreign policy aims.”[viii]
  184. Symbolic landscapes are salient in:
  185.    Inclusion, exclusion, hierarchy, and to portray,
  186.       Dominant and subordinate groups,
  187.          In particular ways.
  188. Exclusion means powerless.
  189.    Inclusion does cause new relations.
  190.      Cultural analysis gets at the heart of,
  191.         What really happened.
  192. Political rituals employ powerful symbols,
  193.    Metaphors, and sometimes mucho fear,
  194. They provide meaning for people during change;
  195.    Like you should record which groups attended,
  196.       The inauguration of the new Premier,
  197.          And culturally explain his or her speech,
  198.             From multiple angles. Is this your career?
  199. Alright class, now it’s time for your favorite quotes,
  200.    Let’s hear.
  201. Elinor, page 150:
  202. “In short, rituals frame issues
  203. That establish compelling priorities.
  204. In doing this, they are important instruments
  205. Of control and, from a Gramscian perspective,
  206. Are central mechanisms
  207. For obtaining and maintaining power.”
  208. Pendleton, page 151:
  209. “For each of the emotions he considers—
  210. Fear, hatred, resentment, and rage—
  211. Petersen derives specific predictions
  212. About who the local targets of violence
  213. Are most likely to be,
  214. And he generates competing predictions…
  215. The emotions each narrative activates
  216. Serve as the linkage mechanism
  217. Between micro-level and macro-level
  218. Collective action.”
  219. Judith, page 152:
  220. “…Bowen weaves together the narrative
  221. About how the French understand the common good,
  222. The importance of the nondenominational state
  223. As the protector of its citizens and
  224. The guarantor of order and liberty,
  225. And the threats that immediate identity groups
  226. And public religious practices represent
  227. To France.
  228. …the public school is the key tool
  229. For inculcating a common understanding of society
  230. And for creating citizens who are not divided
  231. Into distinguishable and unchangeable identity groups.”
  232. Yes Judith, and Bowen integrates exogenous events,
  233.     Like the events in Algeria, 9/11, and the second Intifada.
  234. Class, what are some of the dominant criticisms,
  235.    Of Culture as political science analysis?
  236. Lucius answered:
  237. There are unit-of-analysis issues,
  238. Worthy of review.
  239. For cultural identity may depend on,
  240. Where one stands on an issue,
  241. And where one involuntarily pukes.
  242. Researchers like Almond and Verba,
  243. Aggregate individual behavior;
  244. However, culturalists argue that this analysis,
  245. When alone in a study,
  246. Warrants cultural malpractice.
  247.  Leon reacted:
  248. Within-culture variation can be substantial.
  249. It is hard for the researcher to define,
  250. A homogenous culture within a nation,
  251. Alongside within and between group differences.
  252. Elmer projected:
  253. ‘Tis difficult to distinguish culture
  254. From other concepts.
  255. Always flirting with anthropology and sociology,
  256. Psychology and even the big concept of society.
  257. Westel interjected:
  258. We think that culture never changes.
  259. ‘Tis just there—like the sun—for ages.
  260. Yet it can account for the ebb and flow in regions,
  261. During times of radical or revolutionary change.
  262. Further, culture attracts constructivists,
  263. Who explain interactive rearrangements.
  264. Dianne reflected:
  265. The mechanisms of cultural theory seem weak.
  266. I mean, how does an organization use culture—exactly?
  267. Why is cultural identity so strong in some states,
  268. That people are willing to die for its name?
  269. Sidney affirmed:
  270. As Ross says on page 158,
  271. “Cultural mobilization builds on fears
  272. And perceived threats
  273. Consistent with internalized worldviews
  274. And regularly enforced through
  275. High in-group interaction
  276. And emotional solidarity.”
  277. Robert held:
  278. Some cultural analysis can be summed up as
  279. non-rigorous and non-causal and non-substance.
  280. The reply is often: I show conditions of possibility,
  281. Not the causal empirical reality.
  282. Yes, Robert. That sting caused a lot of pain,
  283.    And arguments.
  284. So in closing, there are political identities,
  285.    And these manifest political life in reality.
  286. Culture links individuals to collective identities,
  287.    And usefully accounts for motives
  288.       And intersubjective meaning.
  289. Munroe interjected:
  290. Culture influences how political actors act.
  291. Culture often focuses on the framing of action,
  292.    By elucidating repertoires and political opportunities,
  293.        Seeking traction.
  294. Culture supplements rational choice theory because,
  295.    It accounts for context-specific interests,
  296.       Across cross-cultural differences.
  297. As Abbott explained in Exceptional America
  298. Kroar was surprised.
  299. The American political institutions reflect the region’s culture.
  300.    See Federalist #14 and newness. Indeed, see all those transcripts.
  301. That concludes our group discussion.
  302. Get in groups by political subfield.
  303. Americans; tell me about cultural predictions,
  304.    Surrounding Gay Rights and medical marijuana.
  305.       Please, also relay something about federalism…
  306.          Of course, isn’t that truly a cultural analysis?
  307. Good luck. You will share your answers in 15 minutes.

[i] This begins a creative analysis of:  Ross. 2009. Chapter 6, Culture in Comparative Political Analysis. Found in: Lichbach and Zuckerman. 2009. Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press.

[iii] This is part of the theory behind my dissertation. I will continue with American political languages.

[iv] Cited by Ross from Geertz (1973).

[v] Page 140.

[vi] Page 140.

[vii] Page 146.

[viii] Page 147. Quote Ross, not Croft.

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  1. Pingback: Learn Comparative Politics–Week 2 Reading « Political Pipeline

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