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“Bounded Culture? The Concept of Culture and Its Relation to the Nation State” by Plamen Akaliyski, Michael Harris Bond, and Christian Welzel
November 18 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am JST
Abstract: Nation states have been questioned as meaningful units for analyzing culture. We underline that culture is always a collective phenomenon, and it is commonly understood as the prevalent values in a society that underlie its institutions. We present several reasons for the emergence of nation states as cultures: they (1) are historically evolved political entities, for which homogeneity offers functional benefits; (2) confine individuals within national borders; (3) emanate common culture through its educational institutions and mass media; (4) provide the political and legal framework of societies; (5) confine economic wealth and the social welfare system. Other cultural ‘gravitational’ forces such as ecology, economy, religion, language, history, and imperial legacies not always overlap with nations and they may form cultural clusters within and beyond the nation states. However, we argue that national cultures should be perceived as central tendencies, influencing smaller cultural units, instead of as uniform and exclusive cultural containers. As such, they do not suppose, nor require homogeneity within nations. Because national culture is foundational for societal institutions and it guides individuals’ behavior, it is of intrinsic interest for the social sciences to study culture at the national-level, even in the presence of internal heterogeneity and cross-border similarity. Whenever of interest, sub- and supranational cultural groups could also be studied, but our theoretical framework warrants the use of nations as meaningful cultural units for analyzing national-level processes.