File Name: routledge handbook of social and cultural theory .zip
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- Dr Jenny Kidd
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- Cultural-historical activity theory
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Dr Jenny Kidd
This article discusses the social and cultural factors of public policy. It first looks at the intellectual history of these two factors, before discussing variety in public policy. One section shows how to come to terms with variety in public policy, while another section shows how to find variety in public policy. Keywords: social factors , cultural factors , intellectual history , variety , finding variety , complying with variety. Clifford Geertz , Public policy never begins with a blank slate whether we are talking about how and why it is made or whether it plays out in terms of wanted or unwanted consequences.
They even define what is for people, public policy and politics Hudson ; Thompson, Grendstad, and Selle Notions in use amount to constraints on and enablers for public policy. How well we explain the occurrence and consequences of one or another policy or policy problem depends significantly on how well we understand the notions used by actors involved with it.
How effectively we shape policy seldom will be greater than our understanding of the notions used by those who matter for policy adoption and implementation Elmore For example, law enforcement attempts to curtail gang-related crime in Chicago ghettos would benefit from recognizing that for the residents, both gangs and the police are sources of protection and exploitation Akerlof and Yellen How accurately we predict the effects of chosen policies depends on understanding of the notions used by those populations the policies seek to influence.
Meeting those challenges encounters at least two major complications. A statement or act or material object is then subject to alternative interpretations and thus diverse implications for action and evaluation. The second is a less than total overlap between what people alone and in groups say, what they do, and what they believe assume, know, or think.
What people actually do can vary as they think their actions are or are not observed by insiders or outsiders. Later sections will briefly discuss these complications, and note some ways to cope with them. Those ways feature approaches central in social science fields other than political science—ethnography, sociology, social psychology, cognitive linguistics, and organizational behavior. Yet, as the next section reports, the concepts and methods involved have a substantial history of use by eminent political scientists concerned with public policy.
This chapter does not call for doing what is unprecedented in understanding cultural and social constraints and enablers on public policy. The sort of political science concerned with public policy in light of cultural and social factors was a feature of the Chicago school which emerged between the First and Second World Wars Almond , 23— , and exemplified in the work of Harold Lasswell e.
Lasswell , ; Lasswell and Fox ; Lasswell and Leites That prominence reflected strong professional relationships with notable sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, and linguists. The appeals of policy alternatives and their consequences were shaped by belief systems encoded in symbols.
Symbol manipulation was a major part of politics. Political capital included intangible assets such as social status and rectitude as well as material assets such as instruments of coercion and wealth. Indeed the legitimacy and influence of the material was partly a function of the non-material assets accorded by association with and propagation of symbols.
Political appraisals and policy assessments then needed to be informed by three types of inventories of markers for intangibles, and methods to take those inventories. One was of symbol usage and the associations thus invoked. The relevant symbols might be words, but they also might be physical icons and sites used in public rituals. A second was of social memberships and origins life histories of policy elites. The premiss was that shares of representation in policy processes served to constrain and enable in one or both of two ways.
That required identifying primary membership groups for actors in the aspect of public policy under consideration. The inventories would show variety from place to place and time to time. They would be useful for monitoring and countering politically malign actors, and designing strategies to improve and protect a valued political order.
Unsurprisingly, the landmark The Policy Sciences Lerner and Lasswell included chapters by anthropologists Kluckhohn on culture and Mead on national character , a sociologist Shils on primary groups , and a social psychologist Stouffer on how to discern what is really going on in large organizations.
Those efforts sought to organize notions used in official speech by policy elites into operational codes e. Leites ; George and notions expressed by mass populations into profiles of national civic cultures e. Almond and Verba Subsequent work presented alternative models of political cultures about major policy matters such as budgets and risk management e. Wildavsky , ; Thompson, Ellis, and Wildavsky ; Douglas and Wildavsky ; sweeping characterizations of particular national and regional political systems e.
Pye ; Pye and Pye ; thematic inventories of the notions and related actions of politicians in for them important situations e. Fenno on US legislators ; and reconstructions of the strategic rationales and related actions of ordinary or even marginal populations in encounters with public sector policies and institutions e. Scott , on Malaysian peasants. It is important to note the scope of this legacy. The actors have ranged from elites to marginal populations, in the USA and abroad.
The units have ranged from whole nations to small groups. Both quantitative and qualitative tools have been used. To say that policy analysis needs to consider cultural and social factors as constraints and enablers is not to commit to a single methodology or type of data. It is, however, to commit to empirical enquiry, i. Work in the Lasswellian tradition does not focus mostly on the texts of a few intellectuals.
General laws of political behavior have obvious appeals. Yet public policy in application is less a general than a specific matter in terms of its when and where, who to whom, the options considered, and the consequences of options chosen. Accordingly, most general laws, be they of rational choice utilitarianism, prospect theory anchoring and loss aversion Levy , or social affiliation and identity Sen , provide only containers lacking situationally relevant operational content.
Similar imputations, filling in, are required to get at what anchors are used and losses focused on, or what social affiliations are given great weight.
Policy-relevant applications of such laws involve accurately recognizing what participants pull from their containers to assess cause and effect relations between alternative courses of action in a situation and likely consequences. Excessively general, ahistorical labeling does little to illuminate why some population behaves as it does or what would lead it to act differently.
Doing that will often reveal that the category may be a useful summary of aggregate outcomes, but not of much which bears on achieving changes in outcomes.
Suppose further that the members of the category have more than one behavioral choice open to them during the time period during which a policy is supposed to accomplish its desired consequences. The targets are not clay but intentional actors from whom passive compliance and uniform reactions are not givens. Differences in interpreted experience with particular public institutions can lead to different general notions of effectiveness in dealing with public institutions and participating in politics more generally as Soss found for recipients of two cash-providing US social safety net programs administered in contrasting ways.
Clark and Hoffman-Martinot ; Inglehart Suppose that the use of familiar categories follows less from an intent to shape the ostensible target population and more from judgements about how third parties e. Other policy elites, bureaucrats, or populations which can reward or punish the invoker can use notions far different from those of the ostensible target population. When they do, public policies can produce desired behaviors and interpretations by almost everyone but it. Talk about cultures or subcultures in relation to public policy usually follows from an image of a set of people whose relevant notions and actions differ from some historical, existing, or imaginable set of people.
Differences get our attention when we think they constrain or enable some relative to other policies and policy processes. What contribution such talk will make to the analysis and conduct of public policy depends on awareness of the multiple dimensions of difference the world offers, and on the breadth and depth of efforts to understand how particular differences get applied to specific situations.
Cultures and subcultures and their members can differ in the dimensions of difference their notions identify. They can differ in the number of distinctions made on a given dimension and the distance between points on a dimension, e. They can differ in the value they place on being different or even unique. They can differ in how situations determine the importance of some aspect of difference. They can differ in what are p. They can differ in what are held to be the correlates of commonly identified aspects of difference in terms of behavior, capability, intent, and normative worth.
And, of course, they can differ in the degree to which their beliefs about how they are different from others and others different from them are shared by those others. Whatever the cultural or subcultural content in these respects, it is not completely fixed if the experience of members is itself changing. Yet, in a context of pre-existing variety of notions and salient material context, populations can view that change as amounting to a very different sort of experience.
People come to any particular policy situation with a stock of notions about the degree and nature of relevant variety based on their prior actual or virtual experiences including socialization, accepted history, academic learning. We are more likely to have elaborated profiles of others we have dealt with before and previously treated as important, and less likely to have such about those rarely encountered or thought lacking in wealth, coercive power, status, or rectitude.
Of course players in policy systems and policy issues are a heterogeneous lot in terms of who they have encountered and treated as important. In sum, which and how many differences get recognized or denied are political and cultural matters. Public policies shape and are shaped by those recognitions, especially with regard to the processing of actual experiences into notion-related interpretative precedents, maxims, fables, and warnings.
Unfortunately, a number of often thought to be general tendencies for public policy get in the way of facing up to variety, and favor downplaying it. Consider three rather common assumptions: 1 ceteris paribus public policy tries to keep things simple to avoid overload; 2 politicians try to stay in good standing with their selectorates; and 3 bureaucratic agents try to look good to those who can affect their careers and agency resources.
It favors attributing to apparently similar verbal or physical acts a standard meaning, and similar intent and affect. It is far easier to interpret the reasons for poor grades by African-American males as following from factors which would account for poor grades by Caucasian or Asian males. A determined effort to think and act otherwise would compound the work involved in public policy formation, implementation, and evaluation.
Of course, some stark claims of difference can enable policies which the prevailing notions in the adopting policy culture would otherwise deem morally illegitimate or pragmatically counter-productive.
If others are inherently different in ways which threaten our culture and its preferred policies and policy processes, anything or at least almost anything goes, e. American treatment of some Iraqi and Afghan detainees. In its often more culturally stressful and physically brutal versions, it can enable policies of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and state and non-state terrorism e.
Sluka Selectorate-sensitive politicians i. They tend to more or less proactively accommodate to them either reflexively when they too hold those notions or by consciously opportunistic acts of symbol manipulation labeling, exemplification, and association. When the selectorate is quite uniform in its notions, the constraints and enablers are rather obvious.
Given widely held notions of a USA under terrorist attack and of government employees as slackers, it was predictable that politicians would compete for authorship of a Department of Homeland Security. It was also hardly surprising that those of them trying p. A selectorate rather evenly divided between clashing sets of notions calls for different strategies and tactics to relax the constraint of dissensus.
Imagine a US selectorate split between holders of very different notions about the proper role of government derived from equally different notions about the good family Lakoff
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Cultural-historical activity theory
Cultural-historical activity theory CHAT  is a theoretical framework  which helps to understand and analyse the relationship between the human mind what people think and feel and activity what people do. Vygotsky  and Aleksei N. Leontiev and Aleksandr Luria , known as "the founding troika"  of the cultural-historical approach to Social Psychology. In a radical departure from the behaviorism and reflexology that dominated much of psychology in the early s, they formulated, in the spirit of Karl Marx 's Theses on Feuerbach , the concept of activity, i. He died of TB in at the age of Leont'ev worked with Lev Vygotsky and Alexandr Luria from to , collaborating on the development of a Marxist psychology.
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