Comparative Inquiry in Politics and Political Economy: Theories and Issues

By Ronald H. Chilcote | Go to book overview

5
THE CULTURAL DIMENSION

INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE PREFERENCES

A concern with culture dates to nineteenth-century studies in anthropology. Culture generally involves knowledge, beliefs, customs, and habits of people. The anthropologist Franz Boas referred to culture as assimilating individual reactions as affected by the habits of the group in which one lives. Culture is conservative in its persistence as these traits are carried on from generation to generation, so that culture might tend to reinforce old patterns or resist change detrimental or threatening, say, to indigenous communities.

Differing perspectives affect various understandings of culture, however. For example, in what generally may be thought of as a prevailing mainstream interpretation, Max Weber referred to culture as somewhat autonomous, shaped by individual orientations or rational self-interest. Alternatively, Karl Marx explained culture in terms of its dependence on the political, social, and economic setting of the society at large. Both thinkers interpreted culture on general and particular levels. Weber viewed culture as composed of beliefs and symbols around ideal types of traditional, charismatic, and rational authority; thus individual actions, shaped by custom, would orient to beliefs that support and maintain the collective society at large. Through rationalization of authority, secularization of society evolves, and rules of procedure become routine. In contrast, Marx envisaged the beliefs and symbols of culture as a false consciousness reflecting the superstructure or the ideological and political underpinnings of capitalist society. Culture thus tends to shield the interests of the ruling capitalist class. Although culture tends to evolve and change through time, radical changes are likely only through historical changes in the material base, through a transformation in the mode of

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Comparative Inquiry in Politics and Political Economy: Theories and Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Part One - Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Politics of Comparative Inquiry 17
  • 2 - Theoretical Paths 31
  • Part Two - Dichotomies of Theories 53
  • 4 - The Social Dimension 83
  • 5 - The Cultural Dimension 103
  • 6 - The Economic Dimension 119
  • 7 - The Political Dimension Representative and Participatory Democracy 151
  • Part Three - Conclusion 177
  • 8 - The Unending Search for a Paradigm in Political Economy 179
  • GLOSSARY 187
  • References 197
  • Index 210
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