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Political Culture. Political culture: a distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how political and economic life ought to be carried out. Political.

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Presentation on theme: "Political Culture. Political culture: a distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how political and economic life ought to be carried out. Political."— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Culture

2 Political culture: a distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how political and economic life ought to be carried out. Political Ideology (not the same as political culture): more or less consistent sets of views concerning the policies government ought to pursue (conservatism, liberalism)

3 Elements of American Political Culture Liberty: freedom to do what we want, as long as our actions don’t hurt others Equality: equal vote and chance to participate in political system Democracy: government officials should be held accountable to the people Civic Duty: people ought to help out in their community when possible Individual responsibility: barring some disability, individuals are responsible for their own actions and well-being Justice and Rule of Law: government is based on a body of law applied equally and by just procedures

4 Questions about Culture How do we know people share common cultural beliefs? –Inferred from books, speeches, political choices, etc. How do we explain behavior that is inconsistent with political culture? –These beliefs change behavior. Example: equality Why is there so much political conflict in U.S. history? –Some beliefs contradict each other and are not consistently prioritized.

5 The Economic System Americans tolerate economic inequality more than political inequality. “Equality of opportunity” NOT “Equality of Results” Cultural emphasis on economic individualism and personal responsibility.

6 Sources of Political Culture Historical –American Revolution: War fought over liberty –Constitution: balanced liberty with government Adversarial culture: preoccupation with individual rights Distrust of authority: British rule, religious belief that human nature was fundamentally depraved

7 Sources of Political Culture Legal-sociological factors –Widespread participation permitted by the Constitution –Religious institutions Religious diversity Puritan heritage Miniature political systems –Family Greater freedom of children and equality among family members –Absence of class consciousness (workers versus management)

8 The Culture War Battle over values Differs from political disputes: –Money is not at stake –Compromise is almost impossible –Conflict is more profound Conflict arising from deep differences in beliefs about private and public morality

9 The Culture War Orthodox: morality is as, or more, important than self-expression and morality derives from fixed rules from God Progressive: personal freedom is as, or more, important than tradition with changing rules based on circumstances of modern life The culture war occurs both between and within religious denominations

10 The Culture War The culture war is changing –More people consider themselves progressives than previously –The rise of media and technology makes it easier to wage a cultural war on a large scale The culture war may affect people’s –Trust in government –Sense of political efficacy –Tolerance of different views

11 Mistrust of Government General mistrust of government officials, not the entire system Examples of causes: Vietnam, Watergate Level of trust rose briefly during the Reagan administration

12 Political Efficacy Political efficacy: A citizen’s capacity to understand and influence political events There has been a sharp drop in the sense of external efficacy (the ability to make the system respond to the citizenry) The sense of internal efficacy (the ability to understand and take part in political affairs) has remained relatively unchanged over time.

13 Political Tolerance Political tolerance is crucial to democracy because it allows free discussion of ideas and the selection of rulers without oppression. Democracy does not require perfect tolerance.

14 Political Tolerance Most Americans believe in the idea of political tolerance but would deny rights in concrete cases. –There is concern that the nation is becoming too tolerant of behaviors that harm society –Many favor defending common moral standards over protecting individual rights Still, most Americans are willing to allow expression by those with whom they disagree

15 Political Tolerance How do unpopular groups survive? –Most people do not act on their beliefs –There is no consensus on whom to persecute (Which groups do we deny rights?) –Courts are insulated from public opinion and enforce constitutional protections


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