Reading Questions on Political Culture

Here are questions for the three assigned readings. (Note that I have uploaded a video on Blackboard that explains how to interpret the numerical results from regression analysis.)

Please come to class prepared to answer the following questions:

General Questions

After having read the three required articles, what is your assessment of the concept political culture? Is there evidence that national political cultures exist? Do you have reason to believe that political culture is a concept that can be adequately defined? Can we use the concept political culture to account for cross-national patterns in various political phenomena? How does each of the
authors use the concept political culture and what is their assessment of its utility as an explanatory mechanism in comparative politics?

Inglehart, Ronald–“The Renaissance of Political Culture”

  • What is the significance of Figure 1 n p. 1206?
  • Is there a correlation between life satisfaction and level of economic development [see Figure 2]? Explain.
  • Why does Inglehart analyze the phenomena i) life satisfaction, and ii) interpersonal trust?
  • What is the logic underlying the relationship between culture and economic development as outlined in Weber’s “the Protestant Ethic?”
  • The relative growth rates of Protestant as against non-Protestant countries in the 1970s and 1980s seems to undermine Weber’s “Protestant ethnic” argument. How does Inglehart reconcile the argument with the empirical evidence?
  • What is post-materialism and what is the relationship bebetween post-materialist values and economic growth?

Whitefield, Stephen, and Geoffrey Evans–“Political Culture Versus Rational Choice: Explaining Responses to Transition in the Czech Republic and Slovakia”

  • How do the authors define”political culture?
  • How do the authors propose to test which of rational choice or political culture is a better explanation for political phenomena? Explain.
  • Is Czech political culture the same as Slovak political culture? Explain.
  • What are the indicators of subjective political culture used by the authors? Explain.
  • What do the authors conclude about the utility of political culture as an explanatory mechanism in political science?

Alesina, Alberto, Paola Giuliano–“The Power of the Family”

  • How do the authors define/measure “political culture”? What is their justification for defining/measuring political culture in this manner? Are you convinced that this is a good measure of political culture?
  • What is the unit of analysis in the paper? Are the units of observation the same as units of explanation? In other words, the authors are comparing differences in cultures across which unit-of-analysis? (If you need some help with “unit-of-analysis”, please refer to the Ragin reading and lecture.)
  • How geographically widespread is their analysis? Please explain. Which countries have weak family ties? Which have strong family ties? Is this what one would expect? [See Figure 1]
  • In their analysis, “political culture” is used as a dependent (or explanatory) variable. What is it meant to explain?
  • Why do the authors use so many religion variables in their statistical analyses? Why would you want to “control” for religion? [Hint: spurious causation.]
  • What is the link between “trust” and family ties; and between “happiness” and family ties?
  • How does the link between happiness and family ties resolve the paradox of the correlation between happiness and income levels?
  • Why do the authors analyze the behavior of second generation immigrants in teh US? Why is the phenomenon of “pronoun drop” important to their analysis? [Hint: “correlation does not equal causation!” Can culture be a dependent varialbe also?]
  • Does culture have an impact on economic outcomes, according to the authors? Please explain.
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