R. Jackman and R. Miller, “A renaissance of political culture?” AJPS 40 (1996), pp. 632- 659.

‘Summary: Examines the re-emergence of political culture, the findings associated with it in recent studies, and the possibilities for its use in future studies.


Important Insight: There is no empirical support for a political culture approach, and the very nature of political culture pre-empts the possibility of there ever being any (even the most carefully designed studies have failed to provide legitimate support for this approach, and the theoretical underpinnings of the approach make it overly culturally deterministic). The political culture approach needs to be recast in institutional terms that more directly acknowledge the role of political considerations in explaining performance


Method: reanalysis of data re: Putnam (1993) and Inglehart (1990)






*Jackman and Miller see the political culture approach as having a number of general claims:

**“cultures are taken to reflect relatively coherent clusters of attitude” (634-635)

*culture is diffused, and “cultural arguments are thus concerned with aggregate properties of societies” (635)

*“cultural syndromes are durable… [they] condition how individuals adapt to changes in incentive structures embodied in institutions” (635)

*culture drives other outcomes, be they political or economic (see 635-636)

*“[political cultures] are more crucial than objective conditions embodied in institutions, and they endure in the face of institutional change” (636)

*in light of these factors, they see this approach as allowing “for slow change at most, since it casts subjective orientations as more important than, and largely independent of, objective conditions.” (636) The argument is overly path dependent.

*as they state in their application of this argument to Putnam “if regional differences in civic mindedness across contemporary Italy date back to the Middle Ages, meaningful change in the future is unlikely” (636)

*putting these theoretical issues aside for the moment, they then examine the validity of Putnam’s statistical claims, and find that there is “very little indication from the Italian data to suggest that institutional performance depends in any appreciable manner on cultural traditions. While there is a statistical justification for the measures of civic community developed by Putnam, those measures do not address distributions of cultural values directly. More troubling is the fact that the measure of performance cannot be justified even on statistical grounds. As a result, these data provide no warrant for linking cultural values to political performance.” (644-645)

*they find that there is no support in the literature they examine for many of the general claims of that literature: political cultures may or may not be coherent, may or may not be durable, and may or may not have “any systematic effects on political and economic outcomes” (653). They find no support for any of these claims.

*what’s more, they don’t believe there to be any possibility of finding support for a cultural approach, since they find the empirical and theoretical issues to be inherent to the approach

*overall, they argue that “the political culture approach needs to be recast in institutional terms that more directly acknowledge the role of political considerations in explaining performance” (633)

*furthermore, they see no use in trying to explain the formulation of these institutions using cultural arguments, as they see institutions as reflecting “ ‘…the efforts of some to constrain the actions of others with whom they interact’ .” (655)

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