The Political Culture Context
A major theme of Chapter 1 was that prevailing conceptions of the American and Canadian political cultures hold these two nations to be quite distinct in their respective views of politics and society. In brief, the Canadian political culture is seen as being characterized properly as collectivist, organic, and holistic in nature. When given expression through a parliamentary system, that culture has produced an interest group system that has been relatively nonparticipative and nonconflictive, characterized by a high level of cooperation with and even cooptation by governmental and partisan elites. In contrast, the American political culture tends to be seen as pluralistic and highly competitive, with interest groups unabashedly seeking to advance their aggregated individual interests in a markedly decentralized governmental and electoral context. More recently, though, some scholars have argued that the common forces of postindustrial change and economic interdependence are producing convergence in the political cultures of Canada and the United States, and greater similarity in the operation of their respective systems of interest group politics.
The question of convergence or divergence of the Canadian and American political cultures and their interest groups' attributes is critical to an adequate understanding of the role interest groups might play in response to the technical information quandary. Interest groups that operate in a pluralistic, competitive environment may tend to respond differently to their members' and potential members' needs for information to deal with the collection of complex, technical, and scientific issues facing the citizens of contemporary postindustrial democracies.
This chapter provides an empirical basis upon which to draw some