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Reese, Rosenfeld / LOCALECIVIC CULTURRE?/ November 2001


What Is the Question to Which the Answer Is: Local Civic Culture?

Laura A. Reese Wayne State University

Raymond A. Rosenfeld Eastern Michigan University

The commentaries to our article (Reese & Rosenfeld, 2001b [299-312, this issue]) remind us of the wonderful “shaggy porpoise” tale in the “Knock, Knock Cantata” by Peter Schickele (1992) better known as P.D.Q. Bach. This long and involved choral work, ultimately ending with a story about a mishap with a zookeeper and some frisky dolphins, begins with several rather convoluted knock- knock jokes that all start, “What is the question to which the answer is . . . ” T hebest one goes, “What is the question to which the answer is—‘9 W’?” The question is, “Do you spell your name with a V, Mister Wagner?”

So, what is the question to which the answer is local civic culture? To directly answer Clarence Stone (2001 [pp. 313-316, this issue]), there are several. How do we understand local governing and policy making when there is no regime? How do we understand regimes when the actors do not pursue the types of policies predicted by regime theories? and What would provide a sufficiently broad theoretical framework for considering context seriously?

At the outset, we would like to make several points about our original article in this issue. First, our intent was for it to be read and evaluated as commentary: The central purpose was to raise ques- tions and pose an argument. That discussion, dialogue, and indeed, disagreement have ensued indi- cate we succeeded. We acknowledge that we overstated the literature or created straw men in posing and critiquing the conventional wisdom. Hence, our colleagues are completely correct that there are extant studies that mitigate, moderate, or modify most of the conventional wisdom we presented. Yet, there is intuitive appeal to the wisdom, easily recognizable by scholars and practi- tioners of economic development, and our intent was not to “cut corners” so much as to highlight assumptions that we have all encountered in research and practice as well as the generalizations we teach.

Second, we also acknowledge that our commentary provides, in very condensed form, a larger argument that we develop fully in our book, The Civic Culture of Local Economic Development (Reese & Rosenfeld, 2001a). In the transition from the book to commentary, detail has obviously been omitted. And it puts us in the somewhat awkward position of suggesting that readers buy and read the book (although not a bad outcome). Clearly, however, important elements of the method- ology and the civic culture argument were left out, and as the responses make clear, this makes it more difficult to assess the basic arguments presented. Thus, we would like to devote a bit of space in our response to provide, first, some of the methodological detail and then move on to the more basic questions about the utility of approaching local policy making in general and economic development policy making in particular through the paradigm of local civic culture.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT QUARTERLY, Vol. 15 No. 4, November 2001 323-326 © 2001 Sage Publications


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