In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Political Culture

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies
  • Book Series
  • Journals
  • Sacred and Secular Culture

Sociology Political Culture
Mabel Berezin, Emily Sandusky
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0201


Political culture can be conceptualized as the matrix of meanings embodied in expressive symbols, practices, and beliefs that constitute ordinary politics in a bounded collectivity and regulated by institutions. In the early 1990s the union of politics and culture was relatively novel, and their analytical and empirical linkages generated methodological dilemmas. At the time, it was challenging to find scholars whose work fit into this emerging field. In the 21st century, the field of politics and culture borders on oversubscription, and the task is to figure out who is in and who is out. Then as now, interdisciplinarity characterizes the field of politics and culture. While methodological issues remain, it is now de rigueur to acknowledge culture in political analysis. As the interest in political culture has grown, two substantive areas have dominated the field: first, the study of nationalism and national identity and second, the theory and practice of democracy. Within each of these areas, it is possible to identify nodal contributions that helped set the research agenda within the field. In addition to these, religion, human rights, civilization, and security may be recalibrated within the area of politics and culture. This article begins with a review of classic anthologies and academic book series, followed by a listing of journals that are receptive to cultural and political analysis. The next section introduces the history and vocabulary of political culture. The bibliography then moves on to topic areas. It begins with the major political form of modernity, the nation-state. From there, it moves to nationalism and the institutions that define membership in the national state: from citizenship (i.e., legal belonging in the national state, to norms of inclusion and exclusion and practices of democracy) and from civil society to social capital. It concludes by looking at political and cultural forms across national boundaries.


Scholarly collections are tools that define the boundaries of a subfield. Classic anthologies in the subfield of politics and culture appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s. These anthologies combine culture, comparative historical sociology, and political sociology. Steinmetz 1999 and Bonnell and Hunt 1999 specifically focus on the relation between history and culture. Harrison and Huntington 2000 focuses upon a Parsonian values approach to culture. Adams, et al. 2005 shifts the valence more to history and politics, but the anthology is still valuable for insights on culture scattered throughout the volume.

  • Adams, Julia, Elizabeth Clemens, and Ann Orloff, eds. 2005. Remaking modernity: Politics, history, and sociology. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

    While this anthology is not specifically focused on culture, its contributors are known for their research in this area.

  • Bonnell, Victoria, and Lynn Hunt, eds. 1999. Beyond the cultural turn: New directions in the study of society and culture. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Historian Bonnell and sociologist Hunt teamed up to assemble works by a group composed primarily of historians with an interest in cultural topics.

  • Harrison, Lawrence E., and Samuel P. Huntington, eds. 2000. Culture matters: How values shape human progress. New York: Basic Books.

    Represents research from a range of disciplines as well as journalism and development. Following classic modernization studies, this book takes a more value-oriented approach to culture.

  • Steinmetz, George, ed. 1999. State/culture: State-formation after the cultural turn. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

    This anthology added culture into the political sociology of the state. The contributors, including historians, sociologists, and political scientists, were breaking new theoretical ground as the leading and most innovative analysts of the 1990s.

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