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Reese, Rosenfeld / LOCAL CIVIC CULTURE?


and myths. The standardized orientation to life is encompassed within the decision-making pro- cess and includes how individuals are recruited for office, whose support is needed to run for office, and more broadly, the perceived proper role of government in the community. The structures of development decision making affect how group interests are maintained. A consideration of the interests involved in development decision making includes how institutions deal with individual demands and how competing demands are mediated. Finally, the balance between citizen and busi- ness needs in the decision-making process has much to say about who is a citizen and hence has the greatest right to governmental services.

. . . it is also critical to consider what the local civic culture is not.

As all of the responses note, it is also critical to consider what the local civic culture is not. First, civic culture is not the environment that surrounds or is exogenous to policy making. This would include the general economy, the location decisions of businesses and individuals, the fiscal health of the city, the level of residential need, the location or geography, enabling legislation, the compet- itive position or stance of the city, actions of neighboring cities, federal and state policies, and the formal government structure or charter, for example. These factors shape the rules of the game or set the parameters that both define and confine local choice. In other words, they represent the very many ways in which local politics does not matter. Local civic culture is also not synonymous with governing regime. It encompasses the regime in cities that have one but does not require the pres- ence of a regime to understand local policy processes. Third, local civic culture is not as broad as the local culture per se. Local civic culture is the governing or decision-making culture; thus, it does not include racial, ethnic, religious, or language-based cultures particularly pertinent for the Canadian cities in our study with large French-speaking populations. Finally, local civic culture is certainly not a “residual category” as suggested by Stone (2001) and Clarke (2001). To the con- trary, it is a central independent variable, or more specifically, an organizing principle for a com- plex of independent variables.

At this juncture, several specific comments of our colleagues are critical. First, Ann Bowman (2001) notes that we indicate that each community will have a “unique” civic culture. If this is the case, she reasons, then it will be impossible to build theory based on a civic culture because such theory requires generalization across cases. We agree completely and would like to disown the statement about unique cultures at this point. In part, it reflects another unfortunate choice of words. But, more important, it illustrates the evolution of a concept and research process. Our arti- cle was written as we were still in the process of analyzing and understanding our case study data. It soon became clear both from the case study data and from further cluster analysis on the data set that indeed, there are discernable patterns of local civic culture. In our book, we identify four: polit- ically inclusive, mayor-dominated, elite-dominated active, and elite-dominated passive cities. In short form, the inclusive cities have very open decision-making systems and are comfortable with relatively high levels of conflict over development policy. The mayor-dominated systems are, obviously, heavily controlled by the elected chief executive. The remaining types favor elites (either bureaucratic or business) in the decision-making process and differ in the extent to which they approach economic development in an active, innovative, or creative manner. In sum, we argue that there are identifiable cultural patterns although we make no claim at this point that we have either explored all the salient aspects of civic culture or identified all cultural types.

This latter issue gets to the point of several other concerns raised by our colleagues. First, we agree completely with Clarke (2001) and Bowman (2001) that operationalizing civic culture is a methodological challenge, and we do not pretend that the current state of operationalization in our work is the optimal system. Yet, we strongly disagree that just because civic culture is “difficult to isolate and measure” scholars should not consider it as a very real force affecting local policy mak- ing. It is only everything and nothing until scholars take seriously the task of defining and measur- ing it. Although behavioralists would argue that if we can’t see and empirically measure something, it is not an appropriate topic for study, we cannot just dismiss the very real effects of local civic culture just because they present problems for us as scholars. Thus, we see this issue as a call for future research that provides different means of operationalizing and measuring local civic culture. We continue to work on new quantitative studies and case analyses designed specifically to further refine these indicators. The measurability of local civic culture is open to debate and future research. What happens if we try?

. . . there are identifiable cultural patterns although we make no claim at this point that we have either explored all of the salient aspects of civic culture or identified all cultural types.

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