Stone / WHAT IS THE QUESTION?
effects of local civic culture are extensive, yet subtle, still leaves us with a need to know how this works and with what consequences.
To what intellectual question does the notion of civic culture respond? Like the concept of habitus employed by Goodwin and Painter (1997), it appears to be a catalog of factors ordered by no specific theory. What, for instance, are the significant variations in civic culture and why are they significant? How does the culture of a political community take shape? How does change occur? What are the consequences of one type of civic culture versus another? How does civic cul- ture relate to the ethos theory of Banfield and Wilson (1963)? Or the “ecology of issues” of Mat- thew Crenson (1971)? Without a guiding question or questions, the notion of civic culture seems to be a catchall that substitutes description for analysis.
Another problem attached to the concept of civic culture is that it may take us back into the kind of explanation by social determinism so effectively refuted by Martin Shefter (1976). Moreover, civic culture seems to shed little light on the issue of change, that is, on how or why the actors in a given locality might alter the arrangements through which they make economic development pol- icy. How does local civic culture explain shifts from one mode of promoting economic develop- ment to another?
Without a guiding question or questions, the notion of civic culture seems to be a catchall that substitutes description for analysis.
When not narrowly conceived, regime analysis covers much the same open-ended consider- ations as Reese and Rosenfeld’s (2001) view of civic culture. So how do the two approaches differ? Although I admit that regime analysis has a better record of raising questions than of providing set answers, it might nevertheless be worth reviewing briefly the questions it raises.
As I see it, urban regime analysis begins with the assumption that local political, economic, and civic leaders face the challenge of governing while juggling multiple considerations. How human agents govern is the central question. We therefore need to ask what purposes they are after and what they have to take into account. A governing coalition never has the luxury of pursuing only a favored policy aim. Multiple considerations come into play. A given coalition cannot single- mindedly seek to pursue economic growth without regard to a voice for popular sentiment, the maintenance of social peace, and financial solvency for local government, but neither can they, without dire consequences, fail to induce a degree of private investment in the local economy (Shefter, 1992). Furthermore, there are no technically derivable answers as to how best to meet any of the several imperatives for governance, much less a technically certain solution to the question of how exactly to balance these imperatives.
To some degree, governing arrangements are thus politically constructed rather than socially or economically determined. Norms, traditions, and institutions are potential building blocks for gov- erning arrangements, but for some policy aims, they may be obstacles and therefore in need of being modified, overridden, or replaced. Structures (which can consist partly of community cus- toms and folkways) are not immutable. The formation of Atlanta’s biracial coalition overrode sig- nificant norms and traditions. In Pittsburgh after World War II, a recognized need for urban redevelopment led to the altering of old institutions and the creation of new ones (Ferman, 1996). In governing, human agents are shaped, but not determined, by their structured situation, and they can act to alter that situation.
What, then, are the creative forces that human agents bring to the task of constructing and mak- ing use of governing arrangements? And what are the constraining factors they confront? These are the questions regime analysis puts on the table. Civic culture or habitus, standing alone, seems to offer little intellectual leverage. By contrast, Sewell’s (1992) concept of schema and its dynamic relationship to resources hold significant promise. Schemas and the resources they can direct and sometimes even create enable us to understand change as well as continuity. They also point to sig- nificant constraints. The uneven distribution of resources (accentuated by private control of invest- ment activity) works against some policy pursuits and the governing arrangements they require, but they favor others. There are ways of countering, to a degree, business advantages and resources. Autonomous expertise housed in the public sector is one possibility to which Reese and Rosenfeld’s (2001) research points. From my observation, a strong and independent nonprofit sec- tor is also a countervailing force.
Another important dimension, central in regime analysis, concerns modes of cooperation. Patronage and related forms of selective incentives are powerful facilitators, but they appear to