POLS 1400 Chapter 8: The Fabric of Canadian Society

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Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Week 9: Chapter 8 – The Fabric of Canadian Society – page #196-234 & 242-
What is Political Culture?
Political culture refers to the broad patterns of individual values and attitudes toward
political objects. These may be concrete objects such as government institutions or national
symbols such as the flag, but they may also be intangibles such as power.
It’s important to understand how Canadians perceive the distribution of power between
themselves and government, and what institutions or positions they view as the greatest
sources of political power
Political culture is just a small part of the general culture of society, but it serves many
purposes: it draws individuals together; supports judgment and action; helps to constitute the
character and personality of a community; differentiates one community from another; and
encourages its members to seek common activities
Political culture renders the government’s decision-making processes acceptable by
demarcating the boundaries within which the government can and cannot legitimately act
Citizens of all countries develop perceptions and expectations about what their political
system can do for them, and what obligations they have in return this process provides the
value structure within which political decisions are made
Underlying the relationship between political culture and the political system assists in
identifying and appreciating how political change can be effected
Citizens’ beliefs and values are scrutinized to determine their effect on voting behaviour and
other forms of political participation or non-participation
Study Canadian political culture in two main ways:
1. Empirical methodology using surveys and questionnaires to learn about mass attitudes
and behaviour
2. Research on the historical development of political ideas
Ethno-Linguistic Cleavages of Political Culture:
Ethnicity is primarily a subjective phenomenon, although it is usually reinforced by different
customs, language, religion, dialect and cultural heritage, and sometimes distinct racial or
physical characteristics
Ethnic origin refers to the ethnic or cultural group(s) to which an individual’s ancestors
belonged; it pertains to the ancestral roots or origins of the population and not to place of
birth, citizenship or nationality
Cleavages are major and persistent differences among groups differences that are
politically relevant
There are three major ethno-linguistic cleavages in Canada that profoundly affect the
country’s political culture
1. The two founding European nations, French and English, is based on the conception of
Canada as a bicultural, bilingual state
2. Canada as a multicultural country
3. The country’s original inhabitants, the Native peoples, who today are struggling for
recognition and self-government
Ethnicity as defined in the Canadian consensus refers to the ethnic or cultural group(s) to
which an individual’s ancestors belonged
The French-English Cleavage:
The primary cleavage in Canadian politics is between the French and English speaking
populations and is based on the different histories, cultures, and languages of the two groups
The cleavage dividing the French and English developed very early in Canadian history
The most visible differences are found in language, a civil law code unique to Québec, and
traditions, myths and heroes based on early Quebec history
There is also a fear of assimilation that permeates politics because of francophone minority
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