GROUNDING POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
(2
nd [WWW] edition)

CHAPTER 6:

DEFINING POLITICAL CULTURE


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I. Political Culture Has Theoretical Problems

"Political culture" is potentially a powerful, unifying concept of political science. When it was first proposed by Gabriel Almond (1956) and subsequently employed in The Civic Culture (Almond and Verba, 1963), the term promised to solve in a scientific, cross-culturally valid way the micro-macro problem: the classic problem of specifying how people affect their political system, and vice versa.(1) "Culture" (and thus political culture) was understood to transcend the individual, but not to the extent that it negated individual action entirely. True, individuals were socialized into their culture, but they also produced and reproduced it. Culture was also understood to constrain political systems, without being identical to them: only certain systems could "fit" a given culture,(2) but the unintended consequences of institutions might alter the culture that created them. The success of anthropologists in studying culture assured political scientists that, properly defined, "political culture" could be studied in all societies.(3) Although formalizing and operationalizing the concept might require new methods, new data, and new theories, the concept itself seemed unproblematic.

Despite its surface simplicity, political culture has presented surprisingly complex conceptual problems. Almond's (1956:396) initial formulation defined political culture as the "particular pattern of orientations to political action." Almond and Verba (1963) revised this conceptualization to the "distribution of patterns of orientation"-a more individual-level conceptualization. Since those formulations were first proposed, many theoretical works have noted problems in defining, measuring, and testing hypotheses in political culture.(4) This stream of criticisms parallels and to some extent overlaps a second stream of new conceptualizations of the concept.(5) These new conceptualizations do not retire older ones; they only jostle them for attention. Such a proliferation of conceptualizations is natural for an important, widely used concept like political culture, but thirty years of conceptualizations and theoretical criticisms have failed to redeem the earlier promise of the concept. Political culture remains a suggestive rather than a scientific concept.(6)

The problem is two-fold: social scientists seek both a consensus on the term's meaning and a redemption of the term's promise. Consensus can be achieved by fiat, by predominant usage, and by analysis. Consensus by fiat is not possible, because social scientists acknowledge no philosophical Leviathan. Even if they did, such a Leviathan would not necessarily create a conceptualization possessing the theoretical characteristics that social scientists expect of it. Consensus by predominant usage is also not possible. Political culture is currently in a state where the leading approach-that of Almond and Verba (1963) has achieved only a modest plurality and may have done so, moreover, only because of its methodological convenience.(7) In any case, the predominance of a conceptualization does not guarantee its usefulness.

An analytical approach may be able to create both consensus and usefulness, however. This chapter takes such in approach. First, it sets forth nine criteria for conceptualizations of political culture. Analysts of political culture, whether theoreticians or empirical researchers, have long shared common expectations of the concept, despite imperfect satisfaction of those expectations by the analysts' conceptualizations. Even when such expectations have seemed impossible to fulfill, the many critiques of previous conceptualizations have clarified them. The nine criteria should, then, provide a common starting point for evaluating alternative conceptualizations. In addition, if the criteria indeed represent theoretically central problems, their satisfaction should yield a useful conceptualization. Given widespread agreement on theoretically central issues, an analytical approach could create consensus on a conceptualization that redeems political culture's theoretical promise.

Second, this chapter evaluates five major previous conceptualizations against these criteria. Since the problems of studying and theorizing about political culture arise in part from multiple existing conceptualizations, we should examine previous formulations before turning to new ones. None of these earlier conceptualizations satisfies all nine criteria, although Lowell Dittmer's "symbol system" approach is able to satisfy seven of the nine.

Third, looking at social behavior from the perspective of symbolic interactionism, the chapter proposes a new conceptualization of political culture in terms of patterns of meaningful action (ways of relating) that are ambiguously encapsulated in symbols. The proposed conceptualization employs the Piagetian cognitive structure of the patterns to satisfy the two criteria not satisfied by Dittmer's conceptualization, while otherwise retaining its strengths.

Finally, the chapter examines its proposed conceptualization's consequences for research. Data gathering methods change when studying relationships instead of symbols. Since cognitive development does not appear to stop until the individual is well into adulthood, socialization studies must be both greatly extended and refocused to detect cognitive-structural changes. For example, hypotheses about cognitive structure may have to take different forms from those of hypotheses about group distributions of individual orientations, and such hypotheses would have to be tested in a different manner as well.

Following earlier theoretical works, this chapter concentrates on the "culture portion of the term political culture. "Culture"is the wider concept and so logically must be clarified before the more specific problems of defining "political culture" can be resolved.(8) Accordingly, I adopt a broad view of "the political" until the issues raised here about "culture" are resolved.8 I will return to this issue in Section VIII.


II. Nine Criteria for Political Culture Conceptualizations

Broadly, the criteria for conceptualizations of political culture arise from three general concerns: a) that political culture offer distinctively new forms of analysis (criteria 1, 2, and 5), particularly those appropriate to the micro-macro problem (1 and 2); b) that the concept not be limited to specific cultures or predicated upon a priori empirical assumptions (criteria 3, 6, and 7); c) and that it be of scientific value (criteria 4, 5, 8, and 9). The specific criteria come from Almond's Parsonian conceptualization of culture(9) (criteria 1, 2, 3, and 5) and from the necessities of comparative politics (criteria 6, 7, and 8) and of social science in general (criteria 4 and 9).(10)Specific justifications for each criterion's validity appear below:
 
  1. Supramembership. The conceptualization of culture must distinguish culture from mere aggregates of individuals considered in isolation. As Lehman (1972) insists, culture is a "supramembership" (emergent) property. Kavanagh (1972:63) notes that arguing "from the aggregated features of individuals to the global characteristics [i.e., culture] of a group or which the individuals are members" is the individualistic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of composition). As Dittmer (1977:555) points out, "If political culture can be reduced to the distribution of attitudes among a given population, wherein lies the need for a distinct conceptual framework and line of inquiry?"The very different cultures of the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich both arose from the same German population.
  2. Sharedness. The conceptualization of culture must refer specifically to something shared among people. The importance and uniqueness of culture lie in its role as a common framework of mutual orientation. In what sense could people have a culture if it were not something shared among them? The response of contextual analysis - that people in the group all equally confront the distribution of characteristics found in that group - will not do: that position makes any arbitrary collection of people a culture. [SPC addition, October 28, 1999: ] "Culture in the anthropologist's sense is what a social group has socially in common: it is what we teach our children; and in teaching them, we make them members of our social group. By definition, therefore, culture in this sense is shared; it is the social bottom line. It includes language and table manners, religious ideas, moral values. With this idea of culture goes the idea of a subculture: people who share not just the common ideas and practices of the whole social group, but also more specific other practices and values as well" (Appiah 1998:47).
  3. Inequality. The conceptualization of culture must allow for the possibility that different people have different degrees of influence over the culture. "In reality, the political culture is almost certainly differentially determined by individuals according to their political weight and the intensity behind their particular orientations" (Kavanagh, 1972:61). Such inequality is the raison d'être of studies of elite political culture (e.g., Putnam, 1976). Even if one believes that all actors do have equal influence, directly or indirectly, this should be an empirical conclusion, not a premise built into culture's conceptualization.(11)
  4. Behavioral. The conceptualization of culture must be such that culture's effects can be observed in social behavior-actions performed when taking other people into account.(12) "Behavior itself gives obvious clues to the sorts of orientations with which [political culture] is associated" (Almond and Powell, 1966:51). Social scientists are interested only in concepts that are at least potentially determinative of observable behavior. This criterion permits nonbehavioral conceptualizations, but by insisting oil behavioral consequences it prohibits merely metaphysical abstractions.
  5. Postbehavioral. The conceptualization must distinguish culture from mere regularities of behavior. Factors other than culture-physical geography springs to mind can cause regularities of behavior, so even if culture is observed in behavioral regularities, it is not defined by them. Geertz, (1973:330) terms baldly factual reports of behavior "thin description" ill contrast to "thick description," which situates behavior in its web of cultural meaning. (See also the discussions in Lehman, 1972:esp.361-2; Dittmer, 1977:esp.555-556; McAuley, 1984; and Section VII below.) To paraphrase Dittmer's previously cited remark, if political culture can be reduced to empirical regularities of behavior, wherein lies the need for a distinct framework and line of inquiry? Note that this criterion does not contradict the previous one, though satisfaction of both may be difficult.
  6. Unrestricted Applicability. The conceptualization must apply to the entire range of human social organization, so that social scientists may use the concept without restriction. Conceptualizations of political culture in ten-ns of, say, attitudes toward the military would be meaningless for societies without an institutionalized military or for most forms of social organization smaller than nation-states. (See the discussions in Dittmer, 1977:558ff.; and Scheuch, 1967, 1968.) The point of using a broad concept like culture is to permit our theories the widest possible scope. Empirical variations in social organization may ultimately limit us to "mid-range" theories, but we can never hope for anything greater if our conceptualizations build in limitations.
  7. Nonreductionism. Beyond wide applicability, the conceptualization must also permit full attention to the unique aspects of any culture's approach to politics. In particular, a conceptualization in terms of some lowest common denominator of all societies would be unsatisfactory, because it would prevent social scientists from comprehending the richness and uniqueness of different cultures (Scheuch, 1967, 1968).
  8. Comparability. The conceptualization must permit meaningful comparisons of cultures, and within a single society, meaningful comparisons of different facets of its culture. Many important hypotheses implicitly require meaningful cross-cultural comparisons for example, "Societies with cultural form X have more internal conflict than societies with other cultural forms." Social scientists also need to compare different fleets of the culture in order to predict intrasociety dynamics, is in hypotheses like Marx's famous "superstructure"theorem, which relates the culture of economic relations to the culture of intellectual production; or like Geertz's (1973:452) speculations about the relationship of the Balinese cockfight to the 1965 Balinese "intravillage slaughter."
  9. Objective Testability. The conceptualization must be capable of producing hypotheses that are testable by objective standards against empirical data. Pye (1972:73-76) notes the current lack of objective standards for testing political cultural hypotheses. (See also Kavanagh, 1972, and Pateman, 1971.) 13
We now employ these criteria to assess five conceptualizations of political culture: the classic Civic Culture approach; Daniel Elazar's analysis of U. S. subcultures; Kenneth Jowitt's, and Archie Brown's analyses of Marxist-Leninist political culture; and Lowell Dittmer's "symbol system" approach. The next section discusses the first four approaches; the following, Dittmer's approach. These five represent a wide range of approaches. Furthermore, within political science they are also the best-known, the most widely used, and in my judgment the most successful conceptualizations of political culture. If the criteria are useful, they should apply to these five cases; and if political science does in fact have an adequate conceptualization of political culture, it should be found among these.

Because this chapter's primary concern is the evaluation rather than the description of different approaches to political culture, it presents these approaches only to the extent required to assess their satisfaction of the nine criteria. It also evaluates the conceptualizations of these earlier approaches, not the value of their research findings. Conceptualizations are not neutral media for conducting researchers' intuition: rather, they are active, if often unrecognized, guides to significant questions and insightful discoveries. In the case of political culture, these significant questions concern the connection, in cross-cultural perspective, of individuals and broader social organization. The nine criteria tell us whether a conceptualization directs or misdirects our research efforts toward those ends. The conceptualizations analyzed below have all produced findings of such scope and suggestiveness as to be ample testimony to their originators' intuition, but our hope is that greater theoretical clarity will lead to deeper insights. It is in this spirit that the theoretical critiques below must be read.


III. Theoretical Evaluation of Previous Conceptualizations

Researchers in the tradition of The Civic Culture define political culture as the distribution of aggregated individual characteristics in a population.14 Research in this tradition typically employs sample surveys. For example, subjects in five countries were asked how they would feel if their sons or daughters were to marry opposition party supporters; the responses show that the five countries differ in the distribution of responses. However, the conceptualization of political culture represented by this approach fails to satisfy criteria 1, 2, 3, and 9: supramembership, sharedness, inequality, and objective testability. It identifies political culture with the aggregate characteristics of individuals, and therefore does not satisfy the supramembership criterion. The only thing social actors "share" in their political culture, according to this conceptualization, is their common existence within a society having the given distribution of individual characteristics.15 This is the concern of contextual analysis, not political culture: the political culture in the Civic Culture formulation is not "shared" in any interpersonal sense, and thus does not satisfy the sharedness criterion. Since each respondent is weighted equally in determining the political culture, it also does not meet the inequality criterion.16 And because no nonproblematic standards exist for the characterization of political culture, this approach does not fulfill the objective testability criterion (Kavanagh, 1972:56; Pateman, 1971).

In addition, conceptualizations of the type offered in The Civic Culture may not satisfy the unrestricted applicability criterion if the individual characteristics studied are not found in all societies. For example, Almond and Verba (1963) studied "attitude toward inter-party marriage," but a party system may not exist in every polity or may have different meanings in different polities. 17 Researchers have no transcendent justification for identifying social objects in different societies with one another. Such methods certainly show that individual, cultural, and social-structural differences exist, but cannot determine whether such differences make any substantial difference to the political process (Scheuch, 1967,1968). For these and the reasons given in the previous paragraph, the Civic Culture conceptualization and others similar to it satisfy only four or five of die nine criteria.

The major competitor to the Civic Culture tradition is that begun by Daniel Elazar's (1966, 1970) influential analyses of subcultures in the United States. Elazar identifies three U.S. subcultures: the traditionalistic, the moralistic, and the individualistic. These subcultures dominate different regions of the country, and each has a distinctive set of values, which in turn create a distinctive form of politics. 18

But despite his description of specific political subcultures, Elazar presents no coherent conceptualization of political culture per se-that is, of what constitutes culture in the abstract. He cites several works-Almond's (1956) conceptualization (Elazar, 1966:84, 1970:256), The Civic Culture (Elazar, 1966:85, 1970:258), and various anthropologists and linguists (Elazar, 1970:257) but he does not appear actually to use their methods. He does not, for example, conduct surveys in the manner of The Civic Culture to delineate the beliefs and extent of each culture, although he apparently makes use of surveys collected for other purposes. His Cities of the Prairie alternates between regarding political culture as determined by the "political style, questions, issues, and processes of the locality" (Elazar, 1970:454) and as defined by these factors (Elazar, 1970:455). While Elazar may be an acute observer of U.S. political orientations, his method is not presented clearly enough to be generalized, and his basic theory of culture is nonexistent.

Elazar's conceptualization does not satisfy at least criteria 6 and 7: unrestricted applicability and nonreductionism. He freely acknowledges (Elazar, 1970:280) that his focus on democracy makes his work readily applicable only to the United States. If Elazar really wishes to insist on the connection of his conceptualization to that of The Civic Culture, then he imports that work's theoretical problems: criteria 1, 2,3, and 9.19 Clearly Elazar knows more than he is telling us, but his focus solely on the United States, and particularly the general ambiguity of his conceptualization, renders it theoretically inadmissible.

Kenneth Jowitt (1974:1173) defines political culture as "the informal organization of the state ... the set of informal, adaptive postures-behavioral and attitudinal-that emerge in response to and interact with the set of formal definitions-ideological, policy, and institutional-that characterize a given level of society." This conceptualization leads into a fascinating interpretive analysis of the problems faced by Communist regimes in attempting to replace the pre-existing political culture with a Marxist-Leninist one.

Jowitt's conceptualization has an unusual combination of strengths and weaknesses. Unlike Elazar, Jowitt rightly excludes social structure from culture by differentiating formal rules and informal adaptations. However, Jowitt confuses a hypothesis about the relationship of regime and culture with a conceptualization of the latter when he assumes that political culture arises and exists only as an adaptation to a regime. How culture originates and whether it is the cause or effect of regime structure are empirical issues.

We can, however, ignore the issue of how the adaptations arise and simply look at what sort of sociological object they are. From this perspective, Jowitt's conceptualization may satisfy the supramembership criterion, although Jowitt does not clearly specify how "informal, adaptive postures" are to be measured. Jowitt's conceptualization probably does not satisfy the sharedness criterion, however, because there is no guarantee that responses to a regime will be shared. Like the Civic Culture's "orientations," responses to a regime may be quite diverse.

Jowitt's conceptualization clearly satisfies criteria 3, 4, and 5. His conceptualization of culture as the response to a regime clearly sees culture as manipulable to some extent by the regime, and thus satisfies the inequality criterion. Jowitt discusses at length the response to a regime evidenced in adaptive behavior; the conceptualization thus meets the behavioral criterion. The postbehavioral criterion is met because Jowitt defines culture as a set of postures guiding action, not as the action itself.

The conceptualization satisfies criterion 6 (unrestricted applicability) only if we are willing to assume that every society has, in Jowitt's words, a "set of formal definitions-ideological, policy, and institutional." This assumption is valid for nation-states, the objects of Jowitt's research, but it is less plausible for tribal societies, for example, and is implausible for small, nongovernmental institutions like families or small groups. Perhaps Jowitt could clarify the concept of "formal definitions" to permit its application to such cases, but the point is strained. In any event, Jowitt does not argue it.

Within these constraints, however, the conceptualization does seem to satisfy criterion 7 (nonreductionism), because it permits free exploration of each society's unique adaptations.

Finally, the conceptualization does not satisfy either the objective testability or comparability criterion. Like the Civic Culture conceptualization and others similar to it, Jowitt's conceptualization is not readily susceptible to objective standards of hypothesis-testing that uses objective data. In addition, the conceptualization is global and intuitive, making comparisons of cultures difficult. Jowitt's conceptualization must therefore also be judged inadmissible.

Archie Brown's (1977:1) conceptualization of political culture includes a potpourri of social elements: "the subjective perception of history and politics, the fundamental beliefs and values, the foci of identification and loyalty, and the political knowledge and expectations which are the product of the specific historical experiences of nations, and groups." As with Jowitt's complex definition, this combination of elements produces at once both strength and weakness. The strength of Brown's conceptualization arises from its deliberate demarcation of a set of interesting elements to study. Far more than a conceptualization ' Brown's phrase carries an entire implicit theory: of where culture comes from ("historical experiences of nations and groups"); of its manifestation in shared group symbols ("foci of identification and loyalty"); and of its manifestation in individuals ("subjective perceptions" and "fundamental beliefs and values"). In consequence, Brown's approach has led to a variety of suggestive empirical results (e.g., Brown and Gray, 1977).

This strength is, however, also the source of theoretical weakness. It is one thing to catalogue the concomitants of political culture; it is quite another to define it. By calling his phrase a conceptualization, Brown conflates individual ("subjective") perceptions and group symbols ("foci of identification and loyalty"). As the discussion of The Civic Culture in preceding pages and in Sections IV and V of this chapter makes clear, these are distinct social elements, which satisfy different subsets of the nine criteria. To the theorist, the conjoining of these elements - in the absence of further conceptual integration of their disparate aspects - results in a combination of their separate weaknesses, not their strengths. Just as we saw when examining the Civic Culture conceptualization, which Brown's closely resembles, this aspect of his conceptualization prevents it from satisfying criteria 1, 2, 3, and 9, and possibly 7.

As a rough and ready guide to political culture's theoretical environment, Brown's phrase has been empirically productive. As a conceptualization of political culture, however, the phrase requires additional coordination of its separate elements. We shall see below, however, that certain portions of Brown's phrase are very close to the conceptualization advanced in this chapter.


IV. Lowell Dittmer's Conceptualization: Political Culture as Symbol System

Lowell Dittmer (1977:566) defines political culture as "a system of political symbols, and this system nests within a more inclusive system that we might term 'political communication.'" This conceptualization turns sharply away from the weakness of individual-centered conceptualizations like Almond and Verba's, and yet does not rely on the presence or absence of (nonuniversal) political institutions. The conceptualization accordingly differs from previous conceptualizations in satisfying all but the last two theoretical criteria.

The conceptualization satisfies the supramembership criterion because the symbols of political discourse are used in communication, which by definition goes beyond the individual. It fulfills the sharedness criterion to the extent that these symbols have common meaning. Dittmer does not explore what becomes of the nature or status of a symbol if, as some studies show,20 it means different things to different people. But note that the conceptualization's problem with sharedness is different from that of The Civic Culture, which makes the distribution of differences the very centerpiece of its conceptualization. Dittmer hopes his symbols are shared, but can't prove they are; in The Civic Culture, the issue is irrelevant.

A long research tradition discusses how people have, or might have, differential degrees of control over the meaning and use of symbols;21 accordingly, Dittmer's conceptualization meets the inequality criterion. Dittmer's conceptualization also satisfies the behavioral criterion, since people's symbolically mediated understanding of the political world determines in pan their political behavior (Hewitt, 1979). Moreover, although symbols affect behavior, they are not identical with it: they are neither defined in terms of it, nor a perfect empirical determinant of it. Thus Dittmer's conceptualization also meets the postbehavioral criterion.

Symbols appear to have similar functions in all societies.22 Therefore, as long as social scientists do not restrict themselves to any particular medium of communication or class of symbols, Dittmer's conceptualization satisfies the unrestricted applicability criterion.

Each culture deals uniquely with the objective conditions it faces, and this uniqueness is expressed in its symbols. Symbolic meaning within the culture must be accurately understood, of course: researchers must not use an ethnocentric interpretive framework to establish meanings. Assuming this caveat is heeded, the study of culture in terms of symbols does justice to the uniqueness of each culture, and Dittmer's conceptualization meets the criterion of nonreductionism.

Dittmer's conceptualization has difficulty satisfying the comparability criterion, however. Cross-cultural comparison of symbols is difficult, because every symbol is meaningful only within a larger symbol system or subsystem of the culture (Geertz, 1973). Intercultural comparisons consequently require the comparison of entire symbol systems (or subsystems), not individual symbols; and, as has sometimes been the case in past national character studies, social scientists are reduced to comparing these systems/subsystems through intuitive global judgments. A similar problem arises in assessing the internal coherence of a culture by comparing symbol subsystems.

Global characterizations of culture allow cross-cultural testing only if culture-free dimensions of comparison can be found. Such culture-free dimensions are notoriously scarce. Global characterization also offers no way to test whether specific aspects of the symbol system are consonant with the global characterization. For example, Pye (1972:294) asks, referring to Clifford Geertz's (1973) description of the Balinese cockfight, what is the "relationship between the important place that cockfighting occupies in Balinese culture and the violent intra-village slaughtering of Balinese [by] each other after the unsuccessful Communist coup of 1965"? lt is"plausible"that the two are related, as Pye notes, but social scientists desire a more objective criterion than plausibility. Therefore, Dittmer's conceptualization does not meet the objective testability criterion.

Despite its failure to meet the two last criteria, Dittmer's approach marks a considerable theoretical advance. As we shall see below, its problems with comparability and objective testability turn out to be resolvable through a little theoretical finesse involving the cognitive structure of symbol systems. Conceptualizations such as the one elaborated in The Civic Culture, on the other hand, remain trapped in a morass of problems arising from their individual-level origins. It may be that these latter formulations can be resuscitated somehow, but I can see no way of doing so. The remainder of this chapter is therefore concerned solely with showing how, by transforming Dittmer's conceptualization into a slightly different framework, its advantages can be preserved and its disadvantages overcome, resulting in a fully admissible conceptualization.


V. Political Culture as Publicly Common Ways of Relating

The participants in the Aspen Institute conference worried this question [of why, when everyone knows that torture was being conducted, there was still a need to take the political risk involved in making that knowledge explicit] around the table several times - the necessary distinctions seemed particularly slippery and elusive - and then Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy and law at New York University, stumbled upon an answer. "It's the differences between knowledge and acknowledgment," Nagel said haltingly. "It's what happens and can only happen to knowledge when it becomes officially sanctioned, when it is made part of the public cognitive scene." Yes, several of the panelists agreed. And that transformation, another participant added, is sacramental (Weschler, 1989:43).
Every cultural symbol stands for, justified, describes, or otherwise contemplates a culture's "way of relating" - the organized system of mutual expectations by which social behavior is informed and made meaningful.23 Different actors may attach different meanings to the symbol, but their references are all to ways of relating. A little later I will discuss the implications of the possible conflict between interpretations; for now, let us examine one well-known symbol - the U.S. flag - in order to pursue the connection between symbols and ways of relating.

The U.S. flag signals an area where people relate to one another in a special way. Flown in a VFW Hall, it signals the dominance of intensely patriotic ways of relating. Flown elsewhere, the flag may signal the dominance of particular official ways of relating: e.g., the relations constituting a military post, city government, or other specially regulated institutions. In all these cases the flag indicates not so much a physical as a social territory: a region where certain social relations obtain. The decoding of a cultural symbol is simply the elucidation of these implied social relations.

Such decoding is necessary, of course, to eliminate the ambiguity of the symbol: two citizens can both wear American flag lapel pins and still come to blows over political differences. If symbols had one meaning, social scientists would not have to interpret them and politicians could not fight over them. Ways of relating thus seem to constitute a prior, more exact level of analysis than symbols.24

How people relate to one another is both the general subject of empirical social science (how do people relate to one another) and the central concern of non-native social theory (how should they relate to one another). We are thus fascinated by Geertz's (1973) description of the Balinese cockfight in the context of Balinese village life only incidentally because it describes strange and interesting practices, but more important because it reveals how the Balinese relate to one another. The cockfights do not just symbolize how the Balinese relate; they are a relationship. If Geertz had simply viewed the cockfight as a symbol of Balinese life, or had described the Balinese "beliefs, attitudes, and values" concerning the cockfight, he would have led his readers away from the cockfight's immediate significance as one of the media through which the Balinese relate to one another. It is Geertz's description of this way of relating as a way of relating that makes it of such theoretical interest and, not by accident, human interest.

Given this central concern with ways of relating, and given the (one-to-many) correspondence between symbols and ways of relating, this chapter recasts Dittmer's conceptualization of political culture in terms of ways of relating. This recasting does not deny the importance of symbols, which Dittmer has already shown, but rather points more exactly to the nature of their importance. Symbols are an intermediate level of analysis, indicating what ways of relating the culture (or the observer) finds important enough to encapsulate in symbolic form. To conceive culture in terms of ways of relating rather than symbols is therefore to go more directly to the object of interest. In addition, even though all ways of relating are of potential interest to social scientists, do we know that all are represented symbolically? If some ways of relating are not symbolized, as seems likely, then "ways of relating" defines more accurately than "symbol systems" the field of inquiry.

Let us define culture in terms of ways of relating. I first propose to call "a culture" only groups of people who share, in the special way described below, a way of relating. Note that this "bottom-up" approach is opposite to earlier, "top-down" approaches. These latter approaches take collectivities (e.g., countries) a priori, term them cultures, and examine afterwards whether their members have anything in common. The present approach looks for commonality before bestowing the name "culture" on a collectivity.

I next propose to term a way of relating "shared" only if it is publicly common within the collectivity. "Publicly common" means that the way of relating is both (a) understood by all in the culture (a common understanding); and (b) in fact used by all actors to orient to one another (the public focus of orientation).25 It follows that a large, diverse collectivity may well have no political culture - may, properly speaking, not be a political culture. The concept of public commonness - the actual use of a way of relating - makes analysts more aware of who does and who does not "participate in the culture." Even in such a highly selective and self-conscious institution as Congress, for example, certain members exhibit inappropriate behavior. Social science must differentiate a Congresswoman's strategic power, available to all 535 members, from participation in Congress' dominant culture, which may be shared by only 534, or 533, etc. Nothing guarantees that any given agglomeration of people will have a culture.

The insistence on public commonness is necessary for four theoretical reasons. First, it eliminates ad hoc specifications of which social aggregates are cultures. Social scientists loosely term the United States a culture, but what criterion beyond our own judgment shows that it is? The Civic Culture finds quite disparate views in the United States: by what fight do researchers assume this diversity to be one culture? Researchers have justifications only truculent ("Because I say it's a culture"), tautological ("Because it's all the United States"), or question-begging ("Because it has one government"). The public commonness restriction insists that a culture extends only so far as people choose the same way to relate to one another, which seems to be the unity referred to when we say people "participate in" a culture.

Second, the public commonness restriction allows cultures to be studied and characterized as wholes, because by definition all actors in the culture work within shared, and acted-upon, ways of relating. The analyst can reintroduce the natural complexity of a mixed society through concepts of subculture and cultural conflict, while allowing analytic power to be applied to truly homogeneous cultures.

Third, the insistence upon publicness distinguishes acquiescence from approval, acknowledging that cultural expectations can differ from individuals' preferred ways of relating. This distinction frees the conceptualization of political culture from Talcott Parsons's much-criticized faith in value consensus. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" could be the official motto of political culture: one might like to deal with people in a certain way, but prior, publicly common expectations constrain one's behavior. The existence of a political culture is not defined by the condition of all people liking the culture or regarding it as legitimate. Rather, it is defined by the ways of relating that people actually use to coordinate their dealings with one another. Culture is what is publicly expected and subscribed to, not what is individually preferred.

Consider race relations in the United States before and after the intense civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Clearly, U.S. society now deals with racial issues far differently than it did in the past: race relations have been irreversibly altered, even if private attitudes have in many cases remained unchanged. The rapid evolution and political achievements of the civil rights movement reflected not a sudden change of heart by millions of U.S. citizens but rather the mobilization of people already dissatisfied with existing race relations. Surveys tell us that individual attitudes about racial issues have gradually become more liberal, but the standard expectations of how to relate to different races changed suddenly. Individual preferences obviously influence what ways of relating can become publicly common, and the nature of such influence is of much interest to us, but individual preference and public commonness are logically distinct.

This distinction is the theoretical port of entry for considerations of social power. Culture is established and maintained not just from people's preferences (and moral reasoning, as I argue later) but also from their relative ability to make those preferences publicly common. This is the domain of economic control, military power, media access, and all the other powers through which a relatively unpopular way of relating might become the focus of orientation.

Fourth, considerations of public commonness underlie two important social phenomena: socialization and cultural change. Public commonness is difficult to maintain, and this difficulty is responsible for society's immense investment of labor in schooling and other methods of socialization. Public commonness is also difficult to establish and alter. Immense social upheavals are required for cultural change, perhaps not initially while new ways of relating gradually become common, but certainly later while they become publicly common. Researchers can understand fully neither socialization nor social change without adducing the concept of public commonness.

Although the insistence on public commonness is necessary for the above reasons, will there be any new costs from this insistence? One such cost might be that culture can be determined only ex post facto and provisionally. Cultures can shift rapidly as people adopt (or fall away from) an existing publicly common way of relating. This is, however, only a practical nuisance to the researcher, not a theoretical drawback. Indeed, everyday observation regularly confirms that people drop in and out of social movements. The occasional bumps of social life show us that people cannot be certain that others share their orientation. The above point is then not a cost of the proposed conceptualization but evidence that it captures an ordinary circumstance of social life.

A second apparent cost of the conceptualization is that societies are no longer seen as coherent cultures. Emphasis on the establishment of public commonness and on the choices people make among competing ways of relating - does this not focus our attention unduly on conflict rather thin consensus? I think, however, that it is more accurate to say that once one does not assume consensus, one recognizes the possibility of conflict. The conceptualization requires a focus neither on consensus nor on conflict, but rather allows the researcher to study their presence without preconceptions. And it does seem, furthermore, that the nature of conflict contemplated by the conceptualization - conflict over general ways of relating to one another - is of immense social importance. (For example, such conflict is central to the dynamics of political development.) The apparent cost to researchers of a loss of coherence is in fact a gain in the sensitivity and importance of the resulting analyses.



VI. The Proposed Conceptualization Satisfies Criteria 1-7

The conceptualization of political culture as "all publicly common ways of relating within the collectivity" satisfies the supramembership criterion, because the public commonness of a way of relating is not a characteristic of the individual (or of arbitrarily aggregated individuals). One cannot determine if a culture exists by examining individuals in isolation. The conceptualization satisfies tautologically the sharedness criterion, because in this understanding I culture is said to exist only insofar as its ways of relating are publicly common, i.e., shared.

In this sense the Civic Culture's participant, subject, and parochial orientations may be the basis of actual cultures, but their associated ways of relating must be identified. Even if identified, it is still unclear whether the participant and subject cultures together make a new "civic culture," because the authors do not show on what common basis they can relate to one another. Carole Pateman (1971, 1980), in particular, wants very much to know how "participants" relate to "subjects," because this relationship will evidence such class domination as exists, and she criticizes the Civic Culture and similar conceptualizations for their neglect of that relationship.

The proposed conceptualization fulfills the inequality criterion, because it does not assume that social actors have equal ability to establish public commonness. One can at least imagine the possibility that differentials of power could give social actors differential control over what way of relating is publicly common.26 The present conceptualization assumes neither equality nor inequality, but simply points to the empirical issue of how public commonness is established and maintained.

The proposed conceptualization obviously meets the behavioral criterion, because the definition of any social situation makes some behaviors more appropriate than others. The way people define situations, and the effect of those definitions on behavior, constitute the subject matter of symbolic interactionism.27

Because not all empirical regularities of behavior arise from ways of relating, the conceptualization also meets the postbehavioral criterion. For example, travelers crossing the desert stop at water holes not out of shared culture but out of physical necessity. Nor do empirical regularities of social behavior always show the presence of a culture. A person who obeys the law because a policeman is standing nearby does not have the same way of relating as a person who obeys the law because it is sacred. The behaviors of the two may resemble one another in some circumstances, but they share no broad cultural basis for behavior.

Just as all cultures have symbols, all cultures have ways of relating, and the concept of ways of relating is naturally applicable cross-cultumlly. Thus the proposed conceptualization fulfills the unrestricted applicability criterion.

And just as symbols express the uniqueness of a culture, so ways of relating express that uniqueness. Symbols such as the flag or the name "U.S.A." represent distinctions, made within the cultural ways of relating, by which the culture demarcates itself. Symbols encapsulate the way of relating: indeed, to explain the way of relating often requires reference to the symbols.28 Thus the proposed conceptualization satisfies the nonreductionism criterion.

We have not yet discussed the comparability and objective testability criteria. The concept of "ways of relating" recognizes culture's richness but not what is comparable between cultures. If no cross-culturally valid characterization of cultures is available, then social scientists cannot test hypotheses of intercultural regularities. If cultural ways of relating can only be characterized as wholes, then each configuration merely receives a different name, and social scientists cannot test hypotheses of intracultural coherence.

The following sections argue that these problems with comparability and testability can be overcome by recognizing that ways of relating are constituted in reasoning, which has Piagetian cognitive structure,29 and which therefore can be analyzed in the powerful ways unique to cognitive structure. Note that our pursuit of political culture has led us first to symbols, then to the ways of relating "underneath" symbols, and now to the reasoning structures "underneath" ways of relating. Here the analysis touches bottom, in the form of solid empirical work, but the reader must be aware that a new level is being discussed.



VII. Ways of Relating have Moral Reasoning Structure

The term "ways of relating" has a nice behavioral ring to it, raising images of objective, observable patterns of behavior. Such images must be rejected, however.30 Social behavior comes not out of fixed behavior patterns but rather as people engage social situations by interpreting them. People identify, interconnect, and consequently make meaningful their own and others' actions. Whether their reasoning involves simple actions or complex internalized representations of action, it remains reasoning. Ordinary discourse recognizes such a preliminary process organizing action: we ask people how they see things, why they did that, and how they came to that conclusion, and we expect a coherent response.31

Fixed environments may induce recurrent responses, but environmental changes quickly reveal these responses' foundation in reasoning. Some people believe, for example, that bureaucratic behavior arises solely from following regular, mindless bureaucratic procedures. But as any bureaucrat can attest, even obedient clients can present problems calling for interpretation. Moreover, as Danet (1971) points out, some clients also use extralegal appeals: sob stories, bribes, and even threats. Such appeals require the bureaucrat to re-reason her use of the rule book by asking, "What is the value of following the rules when set against (e.g.,) a monetary gain for myself?" The answer may be obvious to the reader, but the long history of bureaucratic corruption shows it is not inevitably obvious to bureaucrats. In short, any way of relating, including that represented by the most structured bureaucracy, is founded on reasoning rather than fixed rules. Researchers must, therefore, inquire into people's understandings of their behavior, not the behavior alone.

Reasoning about one's social behavior is ipso facto moral reasoning, because it shows how one takes the claims of others into account-what claims' in what way, and to what extent. When one decides how to behave in relation to others, one is of necessity making a moral judgment. This is true even of relations like ethnicity or gender, which appear based in biology rather than moral reasoning. Such relations are cultural constructions. For example, in New Mexico I would be one of an undifferentiated group of "Anglos." In Minnesota, however, I am not "Anglo" but "Norwegian"-and hence the ancient foe of the "Swedes." My ethnic status and consequent relationships are thus not so much biological facts as they are the moral expectations of my cultural surroundings regarding how I am to identify and treat other people. Cultural constructions like ethnicity and gender are so pervasive that it is easy to forget their basis in moral reasoning.

An extensive body of longitudinal, cross-cultural, and cross-sectional research has shown that moral reasoning has Piagetian cognitive structure. The following claims, all supported by that research, are relevant to the present argument:32

  1. Moral reasoning varies in its structure (the logical interrelationships of the concepts). There are six possible structures, called "stages." 33
  2. The stages can be hierarchically ordered such that each stage represents a differentiation and coordination of the previous stage (Kohlberg, 198 1, 1984a; Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984a).34
  3. Stages are acquired in hierarchical order, with no skipping of stages and no retrogression to lower stages (Colby et al., 1983).
  4. Progression through the stages depends initially on the successive recognition of the relativity of each stage to different moral concerns and perspectives and ultimately on an appropriate reorganization of that stage to embrace and coordinate those perspectives. Thus progression is not inevitable, but it is possible-for any person, at any stage, whenever she perceives such relativity (Kohlberg, 1981, 1984a).
  5. The above statements apply uniformly to all societies (Kohlberg, 1981; Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984a; Nisan and Kohlberg, 1984; Snarey, Reimer, and Kohlberg, 1984; Weinreich 1977, Edwards, 1975).35
The research can support these strong claims because it studies the structure of moral reasoning, not the content. For example, one stage of moral reasoning (called "Stage 3" in Kohlberg's work) involves a "Golden Rule" maintenance of interpersonal relations through mutual role-taking. Consider the following two hypothetical Stage 3 answers to the question of whether a judge should give jail terms to conscientious objectors:
"The judge should put them in jail because that's what's expected of judges."
"The judge should put herself in the conscientious objector's place and have a heart."
In both answers the reasoning is structured in terms of the maintenance of good interpersonal relations and mutual role-taking. The first answer tells the judge to take the role of other members of society, while the second answer tells her to take the role of the accused. The role-taking perspective is ambiguous in its application, and the diversity of content thus stems from the ambiguity of the cognitive structure. If a reasoner were equally sympathetic to both relationships, the apparently major content difference could arise from small, even accidental shifts in the way the issue is presented. This distinction between content and structure is especially important in cross-cultural work, where content differences are extreme. 36



VIII. Measurement Techniques

Cognitive psychologists have several standard ways to measure cognitive structure. In Piaget's methode clinique, the subject is given some task requiring cognitive operations, and the researcher alters the task and/or questions the subject to determine the latter's understanding of what she is doing. This method has two practical drawbacks. First, even though Piaget used the method to excellent effect, the lack of a fixed questionnaire makes the method's success entirely dependent on the skill and theoretical grasp of the researcher. Second, the method requires interviews or controlled observations, which are unfeasible in much historical or social science research.

Kohlberg overcomes the first of these problems, though not the second, by using a standard set of moral dilemma stories (e.g., should a poor husband steal a drug necessary to save his wife's life) and follow-up probes (e.g., "What if the husband didn't love his wife?") to elicit his subjects' moral reasoning. The researcher can interview subjects individually, or can administer the stories as a group written test. The responses are scored according to a detailed manual.37 The method's coverage of the various universal "issues" and "aspects" of moral judgment permits both Kohlberg's test and scoring system to be applied systematically to any culture. (See, for example, Nisan and Kohlberg, 1984, and the references therein; and Snarey, Reimer, and Kohlberg, 1984.)

This scoring system can also be applied to materials other than Kohlberg's standard moral judgment interview. Moral reasoning appears in many forms - inaugural addresses, letters, etc. - and can be scored wherever it appears. (Scoring reliability will vary inversely with the explicitness and extensiveness of the available material.) This permits social scientists and historians to conduct analyses of cognitive structure without interviewing their subjects.

While the above methods measure the moral reasoning of individuals, the present discussion concerns cultural moral reasoning, which is publicly common. In particular, people must use cultural reasoning to communicate with and persuade each other in the context of their culture. As survey researchers know well, one must observe special precautions to get people to respond outside their cultural constraints-that is, to speak from the position of their individual preferences instead of from their understanding of what expressions are "in order." Cultural reasoning is the rule, not the exception. Students of culture therefore enjoy at least one advantage: cultural reasoning is easy to obtain. Cultural materials containing such reasoning are already the subject of social-scientific (albeit generally not cognitive-structural) study. To mention only a few examples, social scientists have studied presidential inaugural addresses (Yeager, 1974) and press conferences (McMillian and Ragan, 1983), strike demands (Shorter and Tilly, 1974), theological arguments (Radding, 1979), children's stories (McClelland, 1976), congressional speeches (Rosenwasser, 1969), television shows (Lichter and Lichter, 1983), introductory college textbooks (Bertilson, Springer, and Fierke, 1982), public prayers (Medhurst, 1977), advertisements (Williamson, 1978), editorials (Sinclair, 1982) and newspaper stories (Van Dijk, 1983). Each of these materials contains cultural moral reasoning insofar as it attempts to persuade the audience of, or explain to it, a desired course of action. Only the application of cognitive-structural analysis to these materials would be at all unusual.38

Researchers may also elicit cultural moral reasoning experimentally by interviewing respondents in a public setting. Respondents could be asked to write persuasive appeals to other members of their culture. Or, respondents could be asked to study issues, meet in small groups, and decide as a group on the best argument for a course of action. Respondents could be interviewed about the reasoning behind their choices in Prisoner's Dilemma games. Respondents could be interviewed about their moral reasoning in front of their peers.39 In general, cultural reasoning is easier to study than private reasoning because the researcher can cast aside the classical experimental strictures to isolate the respondent. After all, if a respondent alters her responses when in the company of others, this indicates something about the group's conduct of politics in other settings.

Let me return briefly to the issue raised at the end of Section I: the distinction between political culture and culture broadly understood. If ways of relating are grounded in moral reasoning, then we must look to the nature of morality itself to make our distinctions. This is particularly true for the development and application of cross-cultural analytic concepts, since the distinctions between the political and (e.g.,) economic spheres are made in different ways in different societies. It may be true that the morality of the marketplace will differ from that of the public forum, and if so, the proposed conceptualization of culture will break cleanly into "political culture" and (e.g.,) "economic culture." But if such distinctions are built into our conceptualization a priori, they may easily not have cultural universality and thus may not be theoretically helpful.

The major difficulty in cultural research will be identifying the intended audience, i.e., delineating the specific cultural context within which the materials or responses in question are produced. In their inaugural addresses, whom are our presidents addressing? Their campaign staffs? Campaign contributors? People who had voted for them? Those who hadn't voted for them? Members of their parties? The nation as a whole? All human beings? Since the way of relating chosen will vary with the situation, the researcher must identify which culture is operative. If the researcher is interviewing people directly, she can easily find out how subjects see their imagined (or actual) audience. This task will be more difficult with historical records and, more generally, an expressions where the researcher cannot question the participants. These problems are only methodological, however; they do not affect the validity of the theoretical formulation. The major theoretical claim of this section is simply that culture as defined here is in principle measurable, as required by the behavioral criterion. Where researchers can question people directly, such measurement should also be quite straightforward in practice.



IX. The Proposed Conceptualization Satisfies Criteria 8 and 9

This chapter started by noting the proliferation of political culture conceptualizations and has worked its way around to proposing another. The burden of proof is accordingly on the new conceptualization to demonstrate marked advantages. Both Dittmer's and the present conceptualization satisfy criteria 1-7; however, Dittmer's does not offer a ready way to satisfy criteria 8 and 9, comparability and objective testability. This section shows that the proposed conceptualization does satisfy those last two criteria.

We have established that (1) each culture consists of publicly common ways of relating; (2) the ways of relating are constituted in the reasoning that people use to apply them; (3) this reasoning is moral; (4) moral reasoning has cognitive structure; and (5) cognitive structure can be meaningfully compared between different cultures. The cognitive-structural analysis of culture is then meaningful cross-culturally. Moreover, cognitive structure is an important characteristic to study. In a very real sense, one cannot study a culture at all until one has come to grips with the cognitive structure ordering it. The cultural content is important, of course, but it is not independent of the framework of the culture's cognitive structure (Geertz, 1973:3-30).

The extraction of structure from content shows social scientists what is comparable across cultures. Structural statements do not, however, describe specific cultural content. In the example of the judge who must sentence conscientious objectors, a structural analysis of a Stage 3 culture would reveal that actors resolve this moral dilemma in terms of mutual role-taking and maintenance of good interpersonal relations. The structural analysis by itself could not say whose role social actors would take or which interpersonal relationship they would maintain.

This content ambiguity means that cognitive-structural factors do not directly predict behavior. Such factors are far from useless in explanation, however. First, social scientists have already correlated cognitive stage with a variety of behaviors, e.g., altruistic behavior. (See Blasi, 1980 for a review of pre-1980 research, and Candee and Kohlberg, 1983, 1984 for two later examples.) Second, beyond predicting behavior, cognitive stage can serve more usefully as a control variable. The different reasoning structures are qualitatively different, and so causal connections between variables may differ greatly between cognitive stage groups. For example, the maintenance of reciprocal, ideal relationships is the major element of Stage 3 judgments of interpersonal obligations but is irrelevant to earlier stages. Thus a researcher relating, say, marital expectations and education would be well advised to control for cognitive stage in the statistical analysis. Regrettably, most current behavioral studies neglect reasoning structure, combine incommensurable elements, and thus wastefully weaken their results.

Content differences are meaningless until structural differences are understood. Cognitive-structural analysis offers one means of cross-cultural comparison, and the comparability criterion is to that extent satisfied. Content differences between cultures remain to be explained, of course, but such explanations are logically subsequent to structural analysis. Empirical research into culture will remain confused until social scientists control for cognitive-structural differences.

Pye and other theorists have noted the peculiar nature of the explanatory potential of political culture. When reinterpreted in cognitive-structural terms, political culture hypotheses become more straightforward. Hypotheses of intracultural coherence (i.e., that a political culture is unified in its many facets) become claims of cognitive-structural consistency (i.e., that the political culture has the same cognitive structure in all facets). One such hypothesis is advanced by Pye (1972:294) when he posits a "relationship between the important place that cockfighting occupies in Balinese culture and the violent intra-village slaughtering of Balinese [by] each other after the unsuccessful Communist coup of 1965." Rewritten in cognitive-structural terms, the hypothesis is that the culture of the cockfight and the culture of the slaughter have the same underlying cognitive structure. Pye names the explanatory connection "plausibility," but in the structural interpretation it is the more objective "cognitive-structural isomorphism." The sense of plausibility comes from perceiving the basic cognitive-structural unity present.

The concept of cognitive-structural explanation also clarifies Geertz's statement:

This is not to say, of course, that the killings were caused by the cockfight, could have been predicted on the basis of it, or were some sort of enlarged version of it with real people in the place of the cocks - all of which is nonsense. It is merely to say that if one looks at Bali ... - as the Balinese themselves do - ... through the medium of its cockfight, the fact that the massacre occurred seems, if no less appalling, less like a contradiction to the laws of nature (Geertz, 1973:452).
In cognitive-structural terms, the killings were not caused by the cockfights, because the connection is not one of agency but of structural isomorphism. The killings also could not be predicted on the basis of the cockfights, because structure does not determine content. Thus the killings were not merely an enlarged version of the cockfights: structural isomorphism does not imply content similarity.

Instead, the cognitive-structural explanation connects events in its assumption that people who operate at a given cognitive stage will evince its structure in many aspects of their lives. Such an explanation rarely predicts specific behavior, but it does limit the potential range of behavior exhibited in a culture. Consider the cognitive structure underlying Kohlberg's Stage 3. This structure consists of the mutual maintenance, through reciprocal role-taking, of an ideal relationship between two parties. Moral decisions, and the behavior they impel, are limited to a choice of which pair-relationship one seeks to maintain, without consideration of the wider social consequences of such particularistic concerns. (The specific nature of the relationship being maintained could vary from culture to culture or even situation to situation. Friendship, godparenting, certain patron-client relationships, and late-feudal fealty all have this structure, despite their different contents.) Lehman can be read as referring to the limitations imposed by these cognitive levels when he argues that cultural variables are "specifying variables":

A specifying variable has only a "modified" explanatory impact, i.e., it "specifies" the conditions under which more strategic correlations will exist in greater or lesser intensity. Seen in this light, culture should be viewed as one of the conditions of the broader "context" that encourage or inhibit the interaction of social system properties (Lehman, 1972:368).
Cognitive-structural analysis can generate hypotheses of intercultural comparison as well as hypotheses of intracultural coherence. The historian Charles Radding, for example, has argued directly that cognitive-structural changes caused the decline of the medieval ordeal (Radding, 1979) and had more general effects on medieval society (Radding, 1978). The anthropologist C. R. Hallpike (1979) discusses directly the role of cognitive structure in the cultural forms of primitive societies. I personally believe that patron-client systems only appear in Stage 2 (and, in a different form, in Stage 3) cultures. Whether true or not, these hypotheses refer to specific, measurable variables. They can be tested and evaluated by standard statistical methods, thus demonstrating that the proposed conceptualization satisfies the ninth and last criterion of objective testability.



X. Conclusion

This chapter's argument has three steps. First, it advances nine criteria in terms of which social scientists can evaluate alternative conceptualizations of political culture. The criteria arise from earlier, well-known theoretical critiques and from standard canons of social research. Though the list of criteria can be disputed, the use of a list permits rational discourse about adding or removing specific criteria.

Second, the chapter examines five major current conceptualizations of political culture and finds them subject to various theoretical objections. Of course, this critique of conceptualizations does not necessarily invalidate the previous research findings. The critique questions how the studies relate to political culture, but it does not attack the accuracy or importance of their results.

Third, the chapter proposes a conceptualization claimed to satisfy all nine theoretical criteria. The proposed conceptualization's use of cognitive-structural analysis requires special forms of hypotheses and hypothesis-testing. In particular, the distinction between content and structure alters the way social scientists conceive of cross-cultural comparability: researchers must compare structures first, and contents only among identical structures.

The proposed conceptualization currently lacks two elements: a means of handling content differences, and empirical illustrations. The distinction between content and structure is important and natural, but, clearly, social science cannot rest with purely structural analysis. Ultimately, after due attention is given to the distribution, development, and measurement of various structures, social scientists will still wish to compare the actual contents being structured. The proposed conceptualization of political culture may be only a way station on the route to that complete analysis, but it is a necessary way station: social science cannot develop a clear theory of content until it comes to grips with the structures, which give contents meaning.

The argument for the proposed conceptualization is mainly theoretical: while a clear conceptualization will usually produce clear and insightful results, and certainly Kohlberg's studies have produced such results for individuals, this conceptualization still requires an empirical demonstration of its fruitfulness. In particular, to understand either publicly common ways of relating or their cognitive structure, social scientists must undertake three projects. First, we must develop and validate methods, like those suggested above, for studying cultures, especially their cognitive structures.

Second, we must apply these methods to current and past societies to draw a rudimentary cultural map of the world.40 Such analyses would differ from (most) current studies in that they would focus on cognitive stages. Different cultures will be organized in different cognitive structures, and the stage theory offers what promises to be a useful superordinate classification system within which we can better understand the unique contents of cultures. 41 Such analyses would, among other differences, recognize that socialization studies must extend well into adulthood, since moral reasoning development is known to continue, at least for some people, well beyond their twenties. Potentially, such development could occur at any time of life. Socialization researchers thus have additional theoretical support for studying lifelong leaning.

Third, the analyses would closely examine the degree to which a society is a unified culture. In cases where cultural penetration is incomplete and where significant alternative cultures are present, the analyses would focus on the resulting intrasocietal conflicts. Analyses of such conflicts would be framed in tenons of two separate dynamics:

1. The relative cognitive stages of the competing cultures would produce one set of dynamic forces. If the two stages differed from one another, the conflict would be marked by incomprehension of one culture by another, since the more complex structure cannot be expressed in terms of the less complex structure.42 If the two cultures are at the same cognitive stage, their conflict will be unresolvable on strictly moral/cognitive grounds. Though the conflict may be ended by some sort of forceful subjugation of one culture by the other, the possibility will also always exist for a higher-stage resolution of the conflict. People who recognize the logical equivalence of the competing structures will feel a pressure, arising from their own intellectual integrity, to discover that resolution.

2. Another set of dynamic forces would arise from the requirements of establishing any way of relating as publicly common. Analyses here would focus on strategic and tactical advantages possessed by the members of the alternative cultures: control over the means of violence; economic power; immersion in traditional symbolism; and so on.

The analyses would look not just at a society's "extensive coherence" - the proportion of people adhering to a single culture - but also its "internal coherence" - the extent to which the cognitive structure of, say, economic relationships matches that of, say, governmental relationships. Kohlberg's studies of individual cognitive development show that an individual's moral development proceeds fairly uniformly across a wide range of moral issues; social scientists must examine whether the same is true of cultural ways of relating across the range of social relationships.

Social scientists also must study how subcultures relate to their cultures and to other subcultures. Which subcultures employ ways of relating differing in cognitive structure from the remainder of the culture? What role do such differences play in dissent and cultural change? Both cultural diffusion and revolution surely are affected by cognitive-structural considerations, and social scientists will have to look afresh at culture change theories.

The reward of such efforts is not just the theoretical virtue of using a well-defined concept of culture. An even greater reward comes in the rich hypotheses made possible by the formulation. Political development, for example, can be defined in terms of the cognitive structures of political cultures; this approach yields new hypotheses about developmental dynamics and stages of political society (Chilton, 1988b:Chapter 5). Even apart from such comprehensive theories, political scientists can study how politics varies across different cultures that have the same cognitive structure: i.e., what content variation is possible when structure is held constant? For example, are an Stage 2 cultures feudal in nature? Are Stage 2 feudal systems different from Stage 2 patron systems? If so, does this difference have political importance? Social scientists need a taxonomy of cultural possibilities in order to understand whether challenges to a culture will create a new cognitive structure or mere cultural shifts within the same cognitive structure. For example, in what way is the new Soviet political culture simply old autocratic wine in new Communist bottles, as theorists of Soviet political culture have asked?

Transposing the analytic matrix, social scientists can study how politics varies within a single cultural tradition when the structure changes. To what extent is there a "modernity of tradition," where traditional institutions bend to, but do not break against, new modes of thought? This hypothesis contradicts the just-cited "old wine in new bottles" hypothesis, and a rigorous cognitive structural analysis could directly test these competing hypotheses.

In sum, the proposed reconceptualization of culture has implications throughout social science and particularly political science. If the political involves power and legitimacy, as Weber has it, then the concept of culture advanced here is quintessentially political: incorporating legitimacy in its study of how moral reasoning is structured; incorporating power in its study of how public commonness is established.43

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FOOTNOTES

1. "Political culture may provide us with a valuable conceptual tool by means of which we can bridge the 'micro-macro' gap in political theory. How does one make the transition from the study of the individual in his political context to the study of the political system as a whole? How does one relate individual interviews and responses, and case studies of individual actions, to the aggregate statistics and group behavior patterns which reflect the course of a system's total behavior? Political culture by revealing the patterns of orientations to political action helps us connect individual tendencies to system characteristics" (Almond and Powell, 1966:51-52).

2. Almond (1956:396) speaks evocatively of this constraint as an embedding. See also Almond and Powell's (1966:21-25) discussion of the relationship between structure and culture.

3. Almond (1956:397ff.) emphasizes the term's applicability across distinct political systems.

4. Most works on political culture discuss some theoretical issues. The following discussion relies primarily on Bunch (1971), Dittmer (1977), Kavanagh (1972), Lehman (1972), Pateman (1971), and Pye (1972).

5. Kim's 1964 review article presented the variety of conceptualizations that had appeared by then. See also the discussion in Sections III and IV of this chapter.

6. Some researchers retreat to raw empiricism: "These different definitions, however, need not preoccupy us, since most of the disputes are related less to what political culture is about than to the methodology to be employed when studying it" (Shafir, 1983:394).

7. "Such a definition is convenient for those interested in comparing and measuring the political cultures of different societies via the survey method; but it suffers from allowing one's methodological preference to define one's theoretical formulations" (Lehman, 1972:362). Contrast Shafir's comment in the previous note.

8. I do restrict my discussion to "social culture" (how people relate to one another) as opposed to "physical culture" (how people relate to their physical world).

9. "The terms which I shall use...have emerged out of the Weber-Parsons tradition in social theory" (Almond, 1956:393). See also Almond (1956: passim), Almond and Verba (1963), Bunch (1971), Dittmer (1977), Kavanagh (1972), Lehman (1972), and Pateman (1971).

10. Dittmer (1977), Kavanagh (1972), Pye (1972), and Scheuch (1968).

11. The discussion offered here is sufficient justification of the criterion, but a further argument can be made that this criterion is crucial to solving the micro-macro problem. Conceptualizations that insist all actors equally determine the culture do not permit an analysis of emergent, unintended, or unrecognized effects of macro-level structures on individuals and culture. Specifically, such conceptualizations cannot even frame the macro-micro issues of false consciousness, nondecision-making, or structural power.

12. By social behavior I mean all action undertaken in coordination with other actors, whether or not those actors are present. Even private behavior-writing this piece, for example - contemplates an imagined audience, a "Generalized Other"(Hewitt 1979:59-60). 1. "Political Culture may provide us with a valuable conceptual tool by Means of which we can bridge the 'micro-macro gap in political theory. How does one make the transition from the study of the individual in his political context to the study of the political system as a whole? How does one relate individual interviews and responses, and case studies of individual actions, to the aggregate statistics and group behavior patterns which reflect the course of a system's total behavior? Political culture by revealing the patterns of orientations to political action helps us connect individual tendencies to system characteristics" (Almond and Powell, 1966:51-52).

13. John Miller (1984:42-46) argues that insistence on clear hypotheses and objective testability can inhibit fruitful interpretive analysis. Still, we should not make a virtue of a disagreeable necessity: cet. par., clear, testable hypotheses must remain our goal.

14. The formulation of political culture by Almond and Verba (1963) differs in a small but theoretically crucial respect from that of Almond(1956).The earlier formulation emphasized shared patterns of orientation, but the later formulation was based on a methodological individualism that subordinated mutual orientations to aggregations of isolation.

Additional studies in the Civic Culture tradition include Putnam (1976), Foster (1982), Szalay and Kelly (1982), and most contributors to Almond and Verba (1980). These authors examine different individual characteristics, but they all use population distributions to describe the political cultures they study.

15. "Our classification does not imply homogeneity or uniformity of political cultures" (Almond and Verba, 1963:20).

16. Elite studies (e.g., Putnam, 1976) attempt to meet the inequality criterion by aggregating the responses of a putative elite. As argued earlier, the conceptualization of political culture lying behind these methods fails to satisfy criteria 1, 2, and 9. Insofar as the elite studies are attempting to determine elite culture, they also fail to satisfy the inequality criterion: all elite actors are given equal weight and no allowance is made for hegemonic control within the elite. Nor does a differential weighting scheme offer a solution, because the weights themselves can be assigned only ad hoc or-an infinite logical regression on the basis of prior knowledge of the culture.

17. The role of political parties in the political system is a major emphasis of the work. Again, this is an unfortunate shift from Almond's (1956) original formulation.

18. Elazar's tradition is difficult to characterize, because Elazar studies political culture differently from his followers (e.g., Johnson, 1976, Hill, 1981, and Lowery and Sigelman, 1982), who simply employ culture as a three-valued, categorical, independent variable describing states or cities and who correlate it with political-structural or output variables. This form of research concentrates on political culture's correlates, not its conceptualization, and a reader of this literature may be pardoned for concluding that political culture is itself a political-structural concept. Elazar's followers use, but do not more clearly conceptualize, Elazar's original work, so it is to Elazar's work itself we must look for theoretical grounding.

19. Elazar's conceptualization need not suffer from these problems, in my opinion, but the absence of any clear formulation of his position, combined with his citation of questionable conceptualizations, lays him open to such objections.

20. See, for example, the Greenberg (1970) and Jaros, Hirsch, and Fleron (1968) studies of attitudes toward political leadership. (Cited in Jennings and Niemi, 1974:5n.)

21. There are actually several such traditions or schools of research. The idea that people exercise differential control over symbols pervades the Marxian tradition, from Marx onward. This idea is also found among the recent critics of pluralism (e.g., Stone, 1980), symbolic interactionists (e.g., Hewitt, 1979), and just plain students of symbols (e.g., Edelman, 1964, Elder and Cobb, 1983, and Nimmo and Combs, 1983).

22. Cuthbertson (1975:11) notes the importance of myths, one symbolic form: "Having myths is a shared characteristic of all societies. Indeed myth is the prerequisite of society." Dittmer (1977:565-583 passim) notes the interest of social anthropologists in symbols.

23. A way of relating is a standard for engaging in interaction: a method of defining situations, selecting alternatives, and acting. Weber's ideal-typical bureaucracy provides a concrete example of one"way of relating." A bureaucrat's action is interpreted in terms of its bureaucratic meaning: legal within the rules; not legal; or irrelevant to the rules in which latter case it is outside the way of relating. Action within the rules can be judged as more or less rational, giving bureaucrats a way of selecting specific actions within a broad array of alternative courses permitted under the rules. Judgments of rationality even apply when choosing rules themselves, thus allowing bureaucrats to make and adapt their organizational framework to changing circumstances. This example shows that a way of relating is not any specific set of actions but is rather a way of understanding and coordinating action. Ways of relating involve not simply isolated actions but rather many actual and potential actions integrated in a web of meaning, as Geertz (1973:3-30) argues. Thus the phrase "ways of relating" focuses simultaneously on the intended mutuality of behavior, whether or not the Other is present, and on the complete network of action alternatives.

24. I am indebted here to Prof. Edward Portis, whose objections led me to clarify this argument. The distinction between symbols and ways of relating closely resembles that made by Basil Bernstein (1966) and Mary Douglas (1982) between restricted codes (religion as ritual) and elaborated codes (religion as ethics). I am indebted to Aaron Wildavsky for bringing this tradition to my attention.

25. Brown (1977: 1) recognizes this characteristic of culture when he includes "the foci of identification and loyalty" (my emphasis) and "political ... expectations" in his conceptualization of political culture. Note that "public" does not mean "official." Widespread bribery may in certain countries be "public" (that is, adopted without discussion and with perfect understanding by all concerned in any transaction) even as it is "officially" condemned.

26. This is, of course, closely related to the position of "structural elitists" like Stone (1980).

27. Even the name, symbolic interactionism, connects symbols and ways of relating. See Hewitt (1979) for an excellent introduction.

28. Hence our ability to move easily back and forth between Dittmer's "symbol" conceptualization of political culture and the present "ways of relating" conceptualization.

29. The term "structure" has been applied to individual cognition, cultural ways of relating, and empirical patterns of behavior. The resulting terminological confusion is unfortunate but unavoidable. The term "structuralism" is sometimes applied to the approaches of the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and the linguist Noam Chomsky. Piagetian structuralism differs significantly from those structuralisms because of Piaget's "functionalist" attention to explaining how structures originate and develop (Piaget, 1977:esp. Chapters 5 and 6).

30. The following argument is, in effect, a justification of the "postbehavioral" criterion.

31. Habermas (1983) discusses how the theoretical status of social science is affected by the unique necessity of social scientists studying action systems in what he calls the "performative attitude." He also discusses the role that justification in discourse plays in social action.

32. Flavell (1968), Selman (1971), Piaget (1977), Habermas (1979:esp.69-129), Higgins, Ruble, and Hartup (1983), and Overton (1983) discuss various aspects of the general connection among moral reasoning, role-taking, and social behavior. Berti, Bombi, and Lis (1982) and Berti, Bombi, and De Bene (1986) describe the Piagetian developmental acquisition of economic conceptions about means of production, owners, and profit. Habermas (1975,1979) has been particularly canceled with the relationships among social behavior, moral reasoning, and the state's ability to legitimize its rule. See Piaget (1932), Kohlberg (1984a), and Colby et al. (1983) for general discussions of the moral development research tradition. See Kohlberg (1981) and Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a) for a discussion of the claims presented here. Attacks on these claims can be found in Fishkin (1982), Gilligan (1982), Gibbs (1977), and other authors cited in Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984b). The latter work contains Kohlberg's replies to those attacks.

In view of the arguments surrounding Kohlberg's work, I will clarify its role in this argument. The present conceptualization only requires that some sequence of stages satisfy the five claims given in the text below. Critics like Gilligan (1982) and Gibbs (1977) attack only Kohlberg's particular sequence, conceding that some such sequence must exist. That is all this argument requires. (Some critics-Geertz, 1984, for example, deny the possibility of any such sequence.) I personally have only the most minor quarrels with the stage definitions. (See Chilton, 1988b:Chapter 3.)

33. Specific definitions of the stages are lengthy and are not required for the purposes of this essay. The interested reader should consult Kohlberg (1984), Colby and Kohlberg (1987), or DPD (Chilton, 1988b:Chapter 3). The six stages are termed Stage 1, Stage 2 ... Stage 6. Cognitive stages below Stage 1 differentiate morality so little from other concepts that they are not of much theoretical or (given their rarity in die adult population) practical interest, and Stage 6 does not occur with sufficient frequency to allow an empirical test of Kohlberg's philosophical argument for its developmental location or even its existence. There is a transitional period (possibly a stage) of extreme philosophical relativism between Stages 4 and 5: Stage 4 1/2. Colby and Kohlberg (1987) present Kohlberg's method of stage scoring, and Colby et al. (1983) present data on scoring reliability.

34. The stages of moral reasoning are most emphatically not evaluations of people's moral worth. A person employing Stage I reasoning is no less and no more worthy of having her claims to moral treatment respected than a person employing Stage 6 reasoning. Just as philosophers critique one another's positions as ambiguous and having unfortunate implications, without thereby condemning one another as evil people, so does the sequence of stages systematize and abstract the critiques in terms of reasoning structures, without thereby condemning the various reasoner (Kohlberg, 1981:esp. Parts One and Two).

35. Different societies have different mixtures of stages. Research suggests that moral reasoners in preliterate societies rarely or never develop beyond Stage 3. 1 reemphasize the previous footnote's caution: while we may evaluate moral reasoning as more or less adequate, we cannot judge the reasoners themselves as good or bad people, and thus even less can we extend evaluation to entire collections of reasoners. (See Chapter 8 below. See also Chilton [1988b: Chapter 5] for a description of the interactions among social structural change, cultural change, and individual development.)

36. Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a) discuss the distinction between structure and content. Eberhardt (1984) illustrates the necessity of understanding a culture before interpreting its members' reasoning. Cross-cultural studies of reasoning obviously will have many methodological difficulties, but such difficulties alone do not constitute theoretical impossibilities.

37. See Colby and Kohlberg (1987). Other tests of moral reasoning make use of the facts that people at a given stage both prefer and can recapitulate arguments at that level. Preference forms the basis for Rest's (1973) test of moral judgment. Turiel (1966) and Selman (1971) explore the ability of people to recapitulate moral reasoning at different stages.

38. Even here structural analysis is anticipated by McClelland's(1976) and Aronoff's (1967, 1970) theme analyses. Radding's (1978, 1979) arguments are directly cognitive structural.

39. Chilton (1984) discusses the practical consequences of such methodological alternatives.

40. Previous work in political culture has certainly shown what societies are important to study, for both their practical and theoretical interest: the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Mexico, Germany; the collectivist cultures of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; the non-Western cultures of China, Japan, Burma; the cultures of medieval Europe and England; the bureaucrats, political leaders, and activists in various politics; and so on. If we reconstruct our concept of political culture, we will need this reevaluation of our former analyses to see to what extent their results carry over beyond the aggregated individual to political culture itself.

41. It is interesting to note that many recent U.S. politics texts devote more space to processes of socialization into U.S. culture than to a description of its content. While the proposed conceptualization of political culture is already known to have strong implications for socialization (Hess and Torney, 1967), it also appears to be uniquely useful in helping analysts come to grips with cultural content.

42. Here I assume that the major difference is die stage difference. If the cultures' contents differ substantially, the incomprehension would undoubtedly be mutual.

43. Cognitive development and the establishment of public commonness are two central dynamics of political development. See DPD (Chilton, 1988b:Chapter 5).


Page URL: http://www.d.umn.edu/~schilton/Articles/GPD6.html
Author:  Stephen Chilton [email]  |  Last Modified:  2005-10-23
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