Cultural Values in Political Economy
Edited by J.P. Singh


Contents and Abstracts
Foreword: Cultural Mediations and Political Economy
chapter abstract

Culture is often treated as a marginal or residual factor in explanations of economic and political behavior. The foreword argues that to understand the interconnected role of values, interests, and agency in the study of global transactions in political economy, culture needs to be seen as independent, generative, and future oriented. By taking this richer approach to culture, many phenomena that escape the net of rational choice theory become more understandable, especially in a world of new connections, mobilizations, and innovations in the political sphere.

1 Introduction: Cultural Values in Political Economy
chapter abstract

An intrinsic part of culture is its history. However, at any given time, different cultural values are sifted through this history and mobilized for collective action. This chapter provides a context for understanding the role of cultural values in political economy examined in this book. Conceptually, the book attempts to provide an interdisciplinary and comprehensive understanding of cultural values imbricated in political economy and the way to move from collective to individual interests, and vice versa. These theoretical moorings allow the authors to operationalize culture through a variety of methods including historical, ethnographic, case-study, and quantitative evidence. Part I provides the conceptual foundations that engender the cultural assumptions held implicit or constant in a few analyses and explains the contexts under which cultures transform interests. Part II presents chapters that examine the processes of cultural interactions that flow from underlying values.

2 Culture and Preference Formation
chapter abstract

Economists take preferences to be comparative evaluations of alternatives that incorporate every factor the agent takes to influence her choices other than beliefs and constraints. Rational choice is determined by rational preferences among the alternatives that agents believe to be feasible and, to a reasonable degree of approximation, the theory of rational choice does double duty as a theory of actual choice. It may seem impossible to employ the economist's model to make sense of the influence of culture or of the mechanisms of cultural change because the economist's model treats norms and ideals as merely different influences on preferences. Yet, as this chapter argues, nothing in the economist's model rules out incorporating additional mechanisms of preference formation and change. Moreover, it argues that doing so is helpful both in understanding the interactions between culture and action and in articulating a more detailed and promising theory of rational choice.

3 Value and Values in Economics and Culture
chapter abstract

Issues of value and valuation are fundamental to any consideration of the relationships between economics and culture. This chapter discusses these relationships at both macro and micro levels. First, we consider the possible connections between the cultural values of different societies and their national economic performance. Then, turning to a functional sense of culture, the chapter argues that in addressing questions of the value of art and culture, it is essential to distinguish between economic value and cultural value, in which the latter refers to aspects of value that are not expressible in monetary terms. Illustrations are drawn from studies of the value of the visual arts, literature, and music. Next, we consider culture in international economic relations, discussing value and valuation in the areas of intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity, and sustainable development. The chapter concludes with a plea for more dialogue at an interdisciplinary level.

4 Creating a Culture of Environmental Responsibility
chapter abstract

This chapter explores possibilities for creating a new culture of environmental responsibility, drawing mainly on recent work in environmental political theory and philosophy. It begins from the assumption that culture—conceived as a repertoire of shared values—is crucial to understanding the interests that people feel themselves to have and that cultural values can powerfully influence long-term changes in society. If we want to improve environmental outcomes, we will need a new culture of environmental responsibility. Key to establishing this culture is novel ways of thinking about what responsibility means and creating new political and economic practices to support it.

5 Cosmopolitans and Parochials: Economy, Culture, and Political Conflict
chapter abstract

Both political economy and culture have been marshalled as explanations for parochialism and cosmopolitanism, opposing orientations that influence contemporary politics and foreign policy. Simple models based on international economic position do not adequately explain parochial attitudes on such issues as Brexit or immigration. Cosmopolitan attitudes are linked to a particular, often local, cultural infrastructure (information environment, educational institutions, and transnational experience). In explaining both parochial and cosmopolitan attitudes and action, the effects of globalization on local culture and politics are of central importance. The link from economy to political behavior and outcomes is created by divergent locational effects of globalization and the local cultures they produce: globalized urban environments versus disadvantaged hinterlands that perceive themselves as left behind. International political economy must illuminate this link between economy and culture, which has important public policy implications.

6 Crossing Borders: Culture, Identity, and Access to Higher Education
chapter abstract

Through the adoption of a semiotic approach to culture, this chapter aims to assist in the development of a cultural explanation of global political culture. A semiotic approach asserts that meaning is assigned by participants to social patterns and behaviors found in society. The experience of boundary spaces offers a laboratory of sorts for revealing the contours of culture and cultural differences, including class differences. It is the experience of stepping out of a comfort zone and into alien space, a place where one does not necessarily know what goes with what, that is most revealing. Habituated roles create the contours of borders and boundaries that come with attendant expectations and customs associated with nation, class, race, gender, and age, among other identities.

7 Ideology, Economic Interests, and American Exceptionalism: The Case of Export Credit
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes the sources and implications of American exceptionalism in the area of export credit. For virtually all major economies, export credit is an important industrial policy tool to promote economic growth. Remarkably, however, while its rivals are dramatically increasing their use of export credit, the United States has become a major outlier. An ideologically driven campaign led by the Tea Party sharply constrained the operations of the US Export-Import Bank: the bank was shut down entirely for five months in 2015 and subsequently limited to financing only minor transactions for nearly four years. This chapter argues that American exceptionalism on export credit cannot be understood without reference to culture, specifically the market fundamentalist ideology of the Tea Party, which has led to a conception of national economic interests and preferences that departs radically from other states.

8 Strangest of Bedfellows: Why the Religious Right Embraced Trump and What That Means for the Movement
chapter abstract

This chapter outlines the connection and disconnection between cultural and material factors in the rise of the religious right in the United States. This social movement comprises socially conservative and politically active born-again and evangelical Christians, as well as some ultraconservative Catholics. This movement comes out of a unique subculture that is suspicious of mainstream political and social institutions and that rejects many of the conventional norms of a democratic society. At once, this subculture claims moral superiority in what it considers a corrupted society while pursuing access to levers of power in order to conform the mainstream culture more to its own idealized image of the United States. Religious conservatives were the key to electing Donald J. Trump as president, and this chapter explores linkages of social and cultural issues to the broader economic factors that played a substantial role in religious conservative support for his election.

9 Applying the Soft Power Rubric: How Study Abroad Data Reveals International Cultural Relations
chapter abstract

A country's ability to attract foreign students to its universities is one common way to understand its soft power in the international community. Applying the Soft Power Rubric to empirical data, this chapter reveals the preferences of students who go abroad and uncovers South Africa's and Malaysia's roles as rising regional hubs and France's slowing growth as a global hub, which complicate our understanding of North-South or core-periphery postcolonial relations. The rubric reconceives soft power as when foreigners transform their thinking from "us" and "them" to a collective "we," emphasizing the perspective of the countries at the periphery rather than at the core, unveiling important networks of cultural relations, offering a path forward to bring cultural data into empirical modeling, and pointing to fruitful areas for future work. The chapter also offers a contrast with others in this book that emphasize a reaction against globalization.