Saturday, October 9, 2010

Harry Eckstein. 1988. A Culturalist Theory of Political Change

Harry Eckstein. “A Culturalist Theory of Political Change.” American Political Science Review 82 (September 1988), 789‐804.

Political culturist approach has been criticized for explaining political changes in an ad hoc and post hoc manner because its assumptions generally lead to an expectation of cultural continuity. This article attempts to initiate the development of the theory behind culturalism.

People's cultures and orientations should be stable, but with variability. No variability suggests that the processing of experiences is fixed at the biological level. Orientations are accumulated over time from external socializers where early learning filters later learning.

More modern societies increase the frequency of novel situations people encounter and thus make culture more flexible. There should be oriental inertia even after traumatic socioeconomic change, especially among older generations with more ingrained perceptions that invest new experiences with accustomed meaning.

After sociopolitical trauma, ritual conformity to authority (compliance without commitment) should be more prevalent in cases in which the former political cultures and subcultures prescribe high compliance. Alternatively, people might retreat into smaller parochial units that serve as refuges from discontinuity in society.

Culture must be learned on a comprehensive scale and although revolutionary teaching can play a role in shaping the young, it can't replace socialization in small parochial units. Cultural inertia will turn change into pattern maintenance.

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