Topic 9: Culture and Social Capital

Topic 9: Culture and Social Capital


Culture might be labelled the sum of values, attitudes, and beliefs. Social capital can be described as networks of trusted relationships. Political culture–values, attitudes, and beliefs about power–pervade societies and relationships. One of the challenges of states today is that culture and networks of relationships may not change as quickly as the circumstances that affect human and national security. Demographic changes mean that many developed states need immigrant labour, but this may be resisted. Skilled immigrants may be unable to take up essential work because they lack the social capital to find positions and secure employment. Climate change, wars, and environmental shocks may disrupt economies and generate survival migration that can destabilize societies, making them vulnerable to security shocks, or a sense of vulnerability that may erode confidence in government institutions (Huysmans, 2000). Market forces (neoliberal ideas) are pressing governments to respond to common problems with a “lifeboat” mentality of scarcity, which may guarantee that the common problems cannot be effectively addressed (Felli and Castree, 2012). Some shifts in political culture might be essential for survival, while others might be counter-productive, but how can we see them, understand their impact, and design policies to work with rather than fight against changing political cultures?

Learning objectives

  • Apply time series and cross-sectional tools to comparative analysis
  • Recognize and design measures that are sensitive to cultural differences
  • Apply the concepts of culture and social capital to policy problems



To be confirmed by instructor after consultation with class coordinators


D’Amore (Coram)

Activities before class

Consider the following questions for discussion

  1. What is political culture, how do we assess or measure it, and why is it important?
  2. How is political culture linked to national cohesion, social cohesion, and resilience?
  3. What are primordial, instrumental, and constructed identities?
  4. How are political culture, multiculturalism, and the politics of recognition related?
  5. What are reinforcing and cross-cutting cleavages, and how can we use comparative methods to understand their impact?
  6. what dimensions of political culture can be measured? what indicators are used?
  7. How are national identity and political culture related? When are policies to enhance national identity either valuable or dangerous? How would we test this this?
  8. Compare the Greenfeld model of national identity, with Woolcock’s framework for bridging and bonding capital. How do these models help us to understand the concept of national identity?

Activities during class

  • Present essay ideas 60s + feedback. Students may opt to do so earlier

Coordinators may consider the following activities:

  • Policy workshop: What national policies contribute to or undermine social cohesion? What is the evidence to support such policies? What measurements or data collection might be undertaken to provide further evidence for policies that might enhance national cohesion.

Activities after class

  • Review learning objectives
  • Post questions and notes to Moodle.
  • Suggest exam questions

Additional Resources

Boix and Stokes, Ch. 11, National Identity
Caramani, Ch. 17 Political Culture (Moodle)
Dickovick and Eastwood, Ch. 5
Ethnologue, Languages of the World
Eurobarometer, Primary data and related documentation
European Social Survey
Felli, R., & Castree, N. (2012). Neoliberalising adaptation to environmental change:
foresight or foreclosure?Environment and Planning A44(1), 1-4.
Greenfeld, L. (1993) Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity. Summary.
Huysmans, J. (2000). The European Union and the securitization of migration
JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies38(5), 751-777.
Orvis and Dogus, Ch. 4, States and Identity
Otto, I. M., Reckien, D., Reyer, C. P., Marcus, R., Le Masson, V., Jones, L., … & Serdeczny, O. (2017). Social vulnerability to climate change: A review of concepts and evidenceRegional environmental change17(6), 1651-1662.
Pew World Values Survey
Woolcock, M. and Nanyan, D. (1999) Social Capital: Implications for Development Theory, Research, and Policy.
Woolcock, M. (2000) Social Capital and Economic Development
Institute for Comparative Survey Research, World Values Survey, Vienna.