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

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

3
West Point: Social Attitudes, Political Culture, and Electoral Behavior

One cannot comprehend West Point's government and politics in isolation from the larger socioeconomic and political setting of the community. Therefore, this chapter initially is concerned with the prevailing social attitudes or beliefs held by West Point's political elite and the general citizenry. Social attitudes of particular concern to this inquiry, because of their direct or indirect political ramifications, include how West Pointers perceive their community, moral and sexual values, the work ethic, and religion. This chapter also describes and elaborates upon the political culture of West Point. By the term political culture, I am referring to the attitudes and orientation of West Point residents toward government and politics in their locality and their role in the local political process. In a general fashion, Walter A. Rosenbaum has written about political culture:

Political culture can be defined in two ways, depending upon the level at which we want to study political life. If we concentrate on the individual, political culture has a basically psychological focus. It entails all the important ways in which a person is subjectively oriented toward the essential elements in his political system. We want to know what he feels and thinks about the symbols, institutions, and rules that constitute the fundamental political order of his society and how he responds to them. In effect, we are probing the psychological dimension of a person's civic life; we ask what bonds exist between him and the essentials of his political system and how these bonds affect his behavior.

Rosenbaum's second definition of political culture refers to the collective orientation of people toward the basic elements in their political system. This is a "system level" approach. We are interested here in how large masses of citizens evaluate their political institutions and officials. 1

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