Lecture 2: Political Culture
Why do we talk about political culture?
• It helps us understand who we are and what we stand for as citizens
• It informs us of the political decisions we make
• It is a basis for political ideology the set of beliefs and assumptions about what
we think right and wrong is and how we see the world
What does it mean to be Canadian?
What are Canadians’ values and beliefs?
How does political culture influence politics?
Canadians and Americans differ in:
• Balance between individualism and collectivism
• Melting pot vs. multiculturalism
• Dereference to authority
• We usually use the US as a bench mark to understanding what it means to be
See D&C p.247253
Crosscurrents, Issue 1
“Ideas, assumptions, values and beliefs that shape our understanding and behavior as
citizens in the world of politics (D&C, p.241242)
Why political culture matters:
“It affects the way we use politics, the kinds of social problems we address and the
solutions we attempt” (D&C, p.242)
• We have official bilingualism (French, English)
• Allow for same sex marriage
• We don’t have an elected senate, they’re appointed by the governor general. This
has to do with the history of our country and our political culture.
• Ideology: coherent set of ideas or principle about how a society ought to function,
with particular reference to the role of the state
• A “partial appropriation” of political culture
o Ignores complexities and subtleties of political culture and offers “narrow
and selfinterested band of values” that conforms to a particular group’s
worldview Collectivism vs. individualism
Key questions when characterizing political ideologies
• What is the balance between collectivism and individualism?
• What is the role of the state? What is the role of us as individuals?
• Should we act as a collective? Should we be left to our own devices? How much
state interference is desirable?
They should be regarded as ends of a spectrum with collectivism on one side and
individualism on the other with a grey area in the middle.
“All for one and one for all”
• The community should contribute to the good of the whole (people should make
sacrifices to contribute to society, and help the poor)
• Typically it gives a greater role to governments
o Higher taxation
o More expansive government programs
• Typically gives less role to private enterprise
• Our health care system is an example of collectivist programs
Note: Issue 1, Crosscurrents refers to this as “communitarianism”
“Every man for himself”
• Each of us should be free to go about our business and reap the rewards of our
• Typically gives a greater role to individual liberty
• Economic liberalism/capitalism
• Free market economy
• Individual property rights
• Typically gives less a role to government interference
• People who do absolutely nothing for society or the economy should not be able
to benefit from others hard work
Canada is in the middle of both individualism and collectivism, it is quite balances
Political Ideologies in Canada
• Seeks to liberate the individual from the restrictions of the state
• Allow market forces to determine distribution of power and wealth
• Reduce taxation and government regulation
2. Democratic Socialism
• Seeks to liberate the individual from inequalities and capitalism • Promotes egalitarian
• State action and collectivism to achieve liberation and equality
• Government regulation, progressive taxation, redistribution of income through
• A “middle position”
• Two variants
• Business liberals
o State role should be minimized
o Closer to individualism/conservatism
• Welfare liberals
o Can combine individualism and collectivism
o “Equality of opportunity”
• Developed by researches at UofT