The Political World of a Small Town: A Mirror Image of American Politics

By Everett Carll Ladd Jr.; Nelson Wikstrom | Go to book overview

taxation, and additional financial benefits, and an overall good community for its employees to raise a family. In conclusion, I argue that although the Chesapeake Corporation does not dominate the political life of West Point it does enjoy a privileged political position in the community, similar to the standing of business generally in the American political system.

In my concluding chapter, I identify myriad forces that have promoted political change in West Point over the past five years, and provide further substance to my central theme that the character of politics in West Point, to a significant degree, reflects the overall nature of American politics. In closing, I briefly address the present-day vitality and quality of democracy in America.

A comment is appropriate here about the rationale and the methodology of my inquiry. The same rationale that Vidich and Bensman advanced in justifying their investigation into the social and political life of a small town in upper New York State underpins this study: "This study views the community as a limited and finite universe in which one can examine in detail some of the major issues of modern American society. The dynamics of these major issues, then, can be placed under a microscope in the setting of one rural community." 16 In essence, West Point was utilized as a discrete "up-close" political laboratory in the quest to gain insight into the nature and dynamics of American political culture, political power, and policymaking.

I employed an array of complementary methodological strategies in conducting this investigation. I reviewed appropriate documentary materials, including West Point's town charter, town council minutes, tabulated electoral results, and accounts focusing on political developments in the local Tidewater Review newspaper. In addition, I conducted semi-structured field interviews with past and incumbent locally elected officials and a cross- section of twenty-five citizens of the community. These interviews were designed to provide insight into the social and political culture of West Point, and the nature of political power and influence in the community. I also carried out a number of case studies, involving additional field interviews, concerning the resolution of major policy issues that confronted West Point from 1970 to 1986. Finally, I attended town council and school board meetings and in other ways attempted to immerse myself socially in the community.


NOTES
1.
Lawrence J. R. Herson, "The Lost World of Municipal Government," American Political Science Review, 51 ( June, 1957), pp. 330-345.
2.
David A. Booth, Council--Manager Government in Small Cities ( Washington D.C.,: International City Managers' Association, 1968), p. 2.
3.
Arthur J. Vidich and Joseph Bensman, Small Town in Mass Society: ClassPower, and Religion in a Rural Community,

-5-

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The Political World of a Small Town: A Mirror Image of American Politics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xiii
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - The Small Town as a Political Laboratory 1
  • Notes 5
  • 2 - West Point: History and Community Profile 7
  • Notes 25
  • 3 - West Point: Social Attitudes, Political Culture, and Electoral Behavior 27
  • Notes 56
  • 4 - West Point: Government, Politics, and Public Policy 61
  • Notes 101
  • 5 - Power, Influence, and Policymaking in West Point 105
  • Notes 145
  • 6 - The Chesapeake Corporation and West Point: Chesapeake's Evolving Role in the Political Life of the Community 149
  • Notes 177
  • 7 - West Point's Polyarchy: A Mirror Image of American Politics 181
  • Notes 192
  • Bibliography 195
  • Index 205
  • About the Author 209
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