Political Culture - Political Culture Dye Thomas R Politics...

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Political Culture Dye, Thomas R. Politics in America , Prentice Hall. Political culture is that set of ideas which Americans share widely about who should govern, for what ends, and by what means. Values are shared ideas about what is good. Beliefs are shared ideas about what is true. Beliefs often give a foundation for values. For instance, the belief that God endowed humankind with rights to life, liberty, and property is a foundation for giving these concepts the status of values in our political culture. Subcultures also exist, such as those based on religion, race, or ethnic identity, holding different or even deviant beliefs and values. Actual conditions (ex., slavery before the Civil War) may contradict cultural values (ex., equality), creating pressures for political action. The existence of a shared political culture does not prevent conflict over such pressures to reconcile conditions with values, or one value with another. The Liberal Tradition in America Classical liberalism , which asserts the dignity of the individual and their rational ability to control their own destinies, is central to American political culture. It derives from Enlightenment thinkers who opposed the heritage of European feudalism: 1.John Locke (natural law implies limited government, rather than absolute monarchy) 2.Jean-Jacques Rousseau (social contract, rather than divine right of kings) 3.Adam Smith (free markets under capitalism, rather than mercantilism) Dilemmas of Equality The cultural value of equality means that, in the abstract, Americans believe no person is better than anyone else. This applies especially to legal equality , where every citizen is supposed to have equal rights before the law, such as right to a speedy trial. Political equality trailed the development of legal equality, with constitutional amendments not guaranteeing the vote for ex-slaves until 1868 and for women until 1920 and with the need for voting rights acts even in modern times. Equality of opportunity is a widely-shared value which means Americans do not begrudge income inequalities arising from differences in education, effort, risk-taking, investment, talent, or event luck, like winning the lottery, but this acceptance assumes that all have had an equal opportunity to become educated, make effort, take risks, invest, use talents, or just be lucky. To the extent race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or other factors make equality of opportunity different for different classes of citizens, Americans feel the value of equality of opportunity is violated. Affirmative action , which comprises efforts to remedy the effects of past bias, is a value which is in dispute and cannot be said to be part of American political culture, though many Americans support it.
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This note was uploaded on 12/14/2009 for the course GOVT 32 taught by Professor Lind during the Spring '09 term at École Normale Supérieure.

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Political Culture - Political Culture Dye Thomas R Politics...

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