[Note for bibliographic reference: Melberg, Hans Olav (1996),The
Cultural Approach to Russian Politics: How Reliable?, http://www.oocities.com/hmelberg/papers/961109.htm]
The Cultural Approach
to Russian Politics:
Table of Contents
2.1 The destructive phase I - What should not be included
--- 2.2 The destructive phase II - Distinctions and purposes
--- 2.3 The constructive phase - What should be included?
3 The cultural trait - How to convincingly demonstrate the existence a
3.1 Giving examples
--- 3.1.1 Qualitative examples
--- 3.1.2 Quantitative evidence
--- 3.1.3 Which is best, quantitative or qualitative evidence?
--- 3.1.4 The lessons
3.2 Demonstrating the cause of the cultural trait in question
--- 3.2.1 Conventional causes and the problem of transmission
--- 3.2.2 Internal psychological mechanisms as a cause of political
4. The link - How to convincingly demonstrate the link between a cultural
trait and its claimed consequences
4.1 Historical correlations as proof
4.2 Providing causal mechanisms to justify the link
5 Changability - Is it possible to change cultures intentionally?
5.1 A case study - The aim and the effort
5.2 Was it a success?
Some questions cannot be decisively settled and the search for a key variable which
explains history may be such a question. Max Weber, in his book The Protestant Ethic,
argued for the importance of culture, while Karl Marx in Das Kapital, argued that
technological change was the main causal force behind historical change. The academic
community has still not agreed on who, if any, is right. 1 It would
thus be excessively optimistic, not to say arrogant, to argue that I could answer the
question. Nevertheless, within the limits of one paper it is possible to evaluate some of
the weak points of one approach as it has been used in one country. It is also possible to
give some ideas on how to improve the reliability. This is what I have tried to do.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a well-known authority on Soviet affairs, has claimed that
"Unlike the Russians, the Chinese people have a talent for entrepreneurship." 2 This assertion is then used to predict that it will be difficult to
establish a market economy in Russia. Brzezinski's quote is only one example of a general
class of arguments - hereafter termed the cultural approach - which attempts to explain
and predict the course of history using cultural traits as explanatory variables. Another
member of this class, is the argument that Russia cannot become a stable democracy because
of their authoritarian culture. As Walter Laqueur writes: "The Russians never
respected and loved democracy as they respected and loved autocracy". 3 A third example, is Francis Fukuyama claim that the Soviet Union
collapsed because "the imperatives of industrial maturity eventually forced a
breakdown of the political system" 4 i.e. the political system
was not compatible with the culture created by industrialism. Given the prominent
existence of this approach one is entitled to ask the question: How reliable is the
The answer, of course, varies from case to case. However, in general a reliable
cultural explanation or prediction have to satisfy the following three questions. First,
we have to ask how well the trait in question is established. Do the Russians really have
less commercial talent than other nations? Second, even if we can prove that a certain
trait is distinctive, we have to question the reliability of the link between the trait
and its claimed consequences. Is it really true that the egalitarian culture of the
Russians prevents the creation of a market economy? Third, even if we can give convincing
answers to the first two questions, we still cannot predict that the attempt to create
democracy and market economy will fail since the future culture may be different from
today's culture. Thus, the third question concerns the degree to which a culture can be
changed. These three questions - the believability of the claimed trait, the reliability
of presumed link and the changeability of culture - indicates the structural frame of this
paper. Within this frame I shall focus mainly, but not exclusively, on three issues which
correspond to the quotes in the introduction: the cultural barriers to a market economy,
the cultural barriers to democracy and the relationship between culture and political
My own arguments relating to the three general questions are as follows. First, the
literature I have read indicates that the standard of proof in all three categories is
often low. This is a strong claim which I hope to justify by giving numerous examples.
Second, the low standard only partly reflects inherent problems with the cultural
approach. I believe it is possible in principle to give convincing answers to the first
question, but less so to the second question. I shall also suggest some improvements which
makes the arguments more convincing. Thus, the cultural approach should not be judged
guilty by association i.e. by the fact that many have used it speculatively. Finally, I
believe that many problems originate with imprecise and wrong definitions of culture. This
explains and justifies the detailed discussion of the definition of culture to which I now
turn. Hence, the following should not be read as a preamble or a preparation to the real
critique. Rather, the problems in defining culture is itself a part of the discussion of
the weak points in the cultural approach.
In order to answer a question one must define the terms involved to avoid confusing the
reader. Judged by this the students of culture and its sub-field - political culture -
must be thoroughly confused individuals. In 1952 Kroeber and Kluckhohn presented 164
definitions of culture and the number has surely increased over the past forty years. 5 The great multiplicity of the definitions raises the question of
whether it is possible at all to have a meaningful discussion involving the concept of
culture. Clearly, if we all mean different things when we use the term, we are in danger
of misunderstanding each other. Fortunately, the state of affairs is not quite as
depressing. The definitions, though lexicographically different, are often semantically
overlapping since they use different terms to capture the same meaning, and mutually
inclusive since the definitions often present different but compatible aspects of the term
culture. However, even if we adjust for this we are still left with some incompatible
definitions. In the following I shall first focus on the incompatible definitions to find
which variables I do not believe should be included in the definition of political
culture. Specifically, I shall argue that behavioral variables should be excluded. Next, I
shall discuss some commonly noted problems in defining culture. Finally, building on the
two first sections, I shall attempt to create a definition wide enough to capture the many
compatible meanings of the concept, but precise enough to be useful.
2.1 The destructive phase I - What should not be
As a starting point I shall use Stephen White's definition of political culture.
According to him "Political culture may be defined as the attitudinal and behavioural
matrix within which the political system is located." 6
Initially, this may seems as a perfectly acceptable definition. It is certainly wide
enough to encompass many of the other definitions. Yet, it is precisely its wide scope
which makes it a weak definition. To understand this it is useful to quote a list of
essential characteristics of the Russian political culture as identified by White using
his definition. According to White the "essential features" of the
"'traditional Russian' political culture" are:
"Representative institutions ... were weakly articulated and ineffective; levels
of popular participation were low; and governing style was centralized, bureaucratic and
authoritarian. Popular political attachments, in consequence, were highly personalized;
and political knowledge and experience, outside an extremely limited circle, was virtually
non-existent. The scope of government was unusually broad: it extended not only to those
spheres of life in which other governments of the time were active such as public order
and taxation, but also into economic entrepreneurship and control, religion and morals,
and the detailed administration of justice. It was based, finally, upon a society of
highly 'traditional', gemeinschaft character, in which there was strong traditions of
group solidarity together with its converse, a suspicion of outsiders; a greater degree of
reliance upon face-to-face relations than upon anonymous procedures; and in which it was
accepted that every aspect of the life of the community, from agriculture and military
service to beliefs and behavior, should be subject to the regulation of the community as a
One might discuss whether all these features really were distinctively Russian, but
that is not the issue here. 8 The important point is that White's
list of essential features of the traditional Russian political culture includes a very
wide group of traits. Some of the traits are features of an individual's belief system
(such as suspicion of foreigners); Some are features of an individual's value system
(group solidarity); Some may be characterized as a feature of individual behavior (low
political participation); and finally some are characterizations of society as a whole
(degree of centralization, weak representative institutions). The question is then whether
it is useful to produce such a list of diverse features and call it political culture.
First, I would argue that it is not useful to include characterizations of societies as
a whole (or behavioral variables) in the definition of political culture because these are
precisely the variables we want to explain using culture as the independent variable. For
example, a highly centralized state is a feature of the political system which we want to
explain. One possible approach is then to explain the degree of centralization in terms of
the authoritarian culture of the Russians. However, if characterizations of society as a
whole is included in the definition of culture then political culture simply becomes a way
of redescribing the political system and not an explanatory approach. 9
In short, the definition confuses the explanandum and the explananans. 10
To examine a second argument against the inclusion of behavioral variables we may use a
concrete example, such as electoral participation. The statistical record shows that there
has been a rise in electoral participation in the USSR and White consequently concludes
that there has been a change in political culture. 11 However, when
asked why there was an increase in electoral participation one part of the explanation
must be that the cost of non-voting had increased after the Communists came to power.
Non-voting was an obvious and visible sign of dissent and it was likely to adversely
affect your career or your application for a larger flat. In this way the increased
electoral participation can be explained as the result of rational adjustment by
individuals. We now have two statements. On the one hand, that the increase was caused by
rational adaptation to new circumstances. On the other hand, White states that the
increase represents a change in the political culture, regardless of its causes. One might
argue that these two statements are compatible and a useful way of looking at the
political world. However, as I shall argue below, the inclusion strongly weakens the
appeal of cultural explanations because it reduces its testability.
Falsifiability requires testability against rival theories which might explain the same
phenomenon. In our example, the increase in the electoral participation could be explained
either by a change in culture (attitudes) or a change in the reward structure. Empirical
investigation could then be used in an attempt to falsify one of the explanatory
strategies. To include behavior in the definition of political culture makes this kind of
falsification impossible because the change in behavior then becomes by definition equal
to a change in culture. Hence, to avoid that political culture becomes just another way of
describing the system and to make the approach falsifiable, we should exclude behavioral
variables from the definition of political culture. 12
One might argue that the exclusion of behavior means that we ignore a valuable source
of information about culture. This argument is misguided because the attitudinal
definition does not prevent us from using behavior as an indicator of beliefs. Of course,
the inference is not simple since the same kind of behavior may indicate different
beliefs. When a Soviet citizen joined the Communist Party it could be because he really
believed in the ideals of the Party, but it could also be that he joined the party to
promote his career. In other cases it is easier to reveal beliefs from behavior, such as
the reasonably safe assertion that those who went to Church in the Soviet Union tended to
believe in God. Thus, the analysis of behavior is still important to reveal the nature of
a culture, but behavioral patterns are themselves not a part of the culture.
2.2 The destructive phase II - Distinctions and
The definition of culture depends on our aim. This means that a definition which is
wrong on one reading may be right on another because the authors have different
conceptions of the very purpose of the term. For example Robert Tucker argues that the aim
of the concept is not to explain political events causally. As he writes:
"Might not the central value of the concept like that of political culture be that
it assists us to take our bearings in the study of the political life of a society, to
focus on what is happening or not happening, to describe and analyze and order many
significant data, and to raise fruitful questions for thought and research - without
explaining anything?" 13
I find this approach problematic, but it is both unnecessary and impossible to follow
up on this argument here. Unnecessary, because the critique in this paper is limited to
those who use culture in a causal sense; Impossible, because the arguments would make this
paper go well beyond the maximum length. Suffice to say that I believe an understanding of
a historical event ultimately must be based on causal and intentional analyses. It is then
false to create a dichotomy between hermeneutic interpretation and explanation because
hermeneutic analysis (the analysis of intentions) is precisely the tool used to explain
Even if we focus on definitions of political culture that aim to explain, we might
still ask exactly which culture we think is causally important. Is it the dominant culture
or the sub-culture? Is it the real culture or the ideal culture? 15
Definitions of political culture have been criticized for not taking these distinctions
into account. 16 Although the criticism is valid, it indicates two
common academic phenomena: the flogging of dead horses and the destruction of straw men.
It is to attack a straw man because no-one really argued that all the individuals in a
country had all the same cultural traits. For example, in one of the early uses of the
cultural approach (then called the national character approach), Henry Dicks spoke of
"the modal Russian personality", not the Russian personality. 17
Moreover, even if some people initially made the mistake of assuming that cultures were
monolithic, they were soon corrected 18 - and there should be no
need to continue to point out an obvious mistake. Nevertheless, even in 1995 we continue
to hear the critique that "The mainstream approach to political culture ... does not
allow for the simultaneous existence of two competing political cultures within a single
nationality." 19 Personally, I find this target rather lacking
in life and I shall not spend more time on it in this paper.
A much more interesting and less noted problem, is that of defining cultural traits
using essentially contestable terms. 20 An author may, for example,
argue that the Russian culture is characterized by a strong desire for justice. The
problem is that justice is itself a very ambiguous concept. Are we talking about end-state
justice or equal opportunities? If we are talking about equality of something, then
equality of what. 21 Unless the definition of culture forces us to
be precise on this, it is likely to be of little value since the trait "desire for
justice" can be used to predict a wide variety of conflicting outcomes depending on
how we interpret justice. 22
2.3 The constructive phase - What should be
I have so far noted some mistakes, distinctions and common problems which should be
taken into account when one defines culture. Armed with the lessons from the previous
sections, I shall now make an attempt to construct my own definition of culture. My
general approach is to seek culture inside the heads of individuals - in the aims, beliefs
and norms that shape their actions. If one group of people on average exhibit a stable
difference from another in some of these variables, then we have a cultural difference
which may be important to explain why their political and economic situation is different.
The following tries to make these statements more precise.
There are many factors which shape a decision to act, but two of the most commonly
invoked variables are beliefs and aims. For example, my decision to go to the movies may
depend upon my aims and my beliefs. If my aim is to meet a friend and I believe he is
likely to go, I will go. This may all sound very obvious, but this kind of frame allows us
to categorize different kinds of beliefs and aims which correspond to different cultural
traits. Starting with preferences we find that some cultural traits fit naturally in this
category i.e. as a desire for something which is thought to be a good in itself. The
claimed Russian desire for equality is an example of such a preference. The supposed
utopian, messianic and expansionist traits may also be classified as a preference (for
more land, a bigger role in world politics).
Under the heading beliefs we may distinguish at least three types which each correspond
to claimed cultural traits. First, the assertion that the Russians are more pessimistic
about the nature of man than other cultures, 23 fits under the
general category of beliefs about how things are (inherent properties). Not all beliefs
are of this category, for example some beliefs are about causal connections i.e. how
things are related. For example, assume Communism is defined as a life in material and
spiritual abundance. The question is then how this state of affairs can be created and the
answer may differ from culture to culture depending on their beliefs about how things are
causally related. Some have argued that the culture of the Russians predisposed people to
give authoritarian answers: That the best means to achieve abundance is through
centralized government actions. 24 Other cultures, for example the
American culture, may have the opposite tendency: to believe that the best means to create
material and spiritual abundance is a system of decentralized and private actions. A third
category of beliefs, is beliefs about beliefs (strategic beliefs). For example, I may
believe that you believe that I will not give up power even if I loose an election. Once
again it is sometimes claimed that the Russians tend to have pessimistic beliefs of this
type - for instance that they have a tendency to believe in conspiracies 25
- which in turn means that they lack the interpersonal trust that is necessary to make
I have so far defined culture as the dominant preferences and beliefs (of different
kinds) of a group of people. However, beliefs and preferences are not the only possible
variables that can explain actions. Sociologists, as opposed to economists, frequently use
norms to explain why people act as they do. Norms are here defined as rules about behavior
which are not outcome-oriented. 26 For example, "Do X" (Be
honest) or "If X, then do Y" ("If you receive a gift, then you have to give
a gift in return"). Different cultures have different kinds of norms and this, in
turn, makes it necessary to include norms in the definition of political culture. For
instance, Fritz Gaenslen argues that the Russian culture is characterized by authoritarian
norms, such as "Do not question the decision of superiors in public". 27 Another example of a supposed typical Russian norm - strongly
emphasized by Edward Keenan in his Muscovite Political Folkways - is that of secrecy as
expressed in the saying: "Do not carry rubbish out of the hut". 28
Even with the inclusion of norms some traits seem to fall outside my definition of
culture. One example is Lotman and Uspenskij's characterization of the Russian culture as
bipolar. 29 The bipolarity is not a preference, nor is it a belief
and it is certainly not a norm. If it is none of these, then what is it? In my opinion the
trait is best characterized as a statement of how the preferences, beliefs and norms of
the Russians change over time. Lotman and Uspenskij's basic argument is that the nature of
these changes are discrete (not gradual or linear) and extreme. Thus, whereas the Russians
previously believed that central planning was a good means to achieve an end, today they
may believe the diametrically opposite - that an extreme free market economy is the best
means to achieve the desired aim. In this way one may attempt to show that Russian
preferences, beliefs and norms change according to the theories of Lotman and Uspenskij's.
We now have a clearer picture of what culture is. A culture may be different from
another in that it has different goals, beliefs (factual, causal and strategic) and norms.
These may be called first order cultural differences. In addition to this, there may be
differences in how the goals, beliefs and norms change (the nature of the change and its
frequency). These may be called second order cultural differences. Lastly, to avoid
confusing differences in culture with temporary differences in public opinion, the term
cultural should be restricted to those differences that are relatively stable over time.
The reader should note that I do not claim that this is the definitive definition of
culture. There may be problems in distinguishing between cultural beliefs and other
beliefs and there may be some variables missing. 30 For example, if
the average degree of weakness of will is different in one group from another this may be
a cultural difference (or it may be the expression of such a difference), but it does not
fit in my framework. Yet, although my definition of political culture is not complete, I
believe it is adequate to enable further discussion since it captures most of the claimed
cultural traits I have come across in the literature.
3. The cultural trait
- How to convincingly demonstrate the existence a cultural trait?
If we are faced with a statement such as the Russians "have a deeply held cultural
fear of innovation" 31, we must ask why we should believe that
this is the case. There are many examples in which this is poorly done, or even ignored -
as I shall demonstrate. However, it is not impossible in principle to give convincing
arguments as I shall also attempt to show. These arguments can take two main forms. First,
we may give examples which demonstrate the existence of the cultural trait in question.
Second, we may give a causal story which makes it plausible to believe that the trait
3.1 Giving examples
Examples may be of two kinds, qualitative or quantitative. The qualitative method
focuses on one or a few number of telling examples which are interpreted in depth. The
quantitative method is based on statistical analysis of a large number of cases.33
3.1.1 Qualitative examples
The conventional qualitative method of proving that the Russians have a certain culture
is to give examples of Russian behavior or written and spoken words. The specific source
is often a poem, an excerpt from a work of fiction or simply a quote from a person of
influence. Sometimes the more imaginative scholars use jokes, anecdotes, proverbs,
name-giving practices, linguistic and semantic observations, the study of heroes and
paintings and many other forms of human expression to prove a certain cultural trait. For
example, to demonstrate that the Russians were not brainwashed into believing everything
the official media claimed one might point to the following Russian joke: A daycare
teacher is telling the children: "In the Soviet Union everyone eats well, dresses
well, lives in fine apartments and all children have a lot of beautiful toys" Hearing
this, one little boy begins to whimper: "Wanna ... wanna ... wanna go to the Soviet
Given the abundance of possible sources one might believe that there is enough evidence
to prove the that the Russians have a certain cultural trait. However, there are several
reasons to be skeptical. First of all, the abundance of evidence is of little help is it
is not used. For example, Barner-Barry and Hody in their book The Politics of Change
repeatedly relies on cultural traits to explain and predict the course of Russian history
while at the same time they provide scant, if any, evidence to convince the readers that
the Russians really have the cultural traits they claim or that the claimed traits are
distinctively Russian. In their book the typical Russian is portrayed as risk-averse,
incapable of understanding politics in terms of institutions, strongly fearful of chaos
and anarchy and always seeking to annihilate opposition rather than agree to compromises. 35 These claims may or may not be true, but with the evidence they
provide we simply do not know. 36 We do not know because their
evidence is largely build on quotes from "experts", but that is only slightly
more convincing than buying a second copy of a newspaper to check a fact you read in the
first copy. 37 Quotes from well established authorities can never
replace primary evidence, especially when we upon further research find that the experts
Second, it is precisely the abundance of evidence which makes it difficult to prove a
cultural trait. One author may use a poem to prove that the Russians have a collectivist
culture. Another may use proverbs to show that they are individualistic. Even worse, we
may both use the same poem or painting but still reach different conclusions because the
evidence requires interpretation. An example of this kind of problem is Per-Arne Bodin, a
Swedish author, who uses Malevitj's black square to prove rather sweeping conclusions
about Russian history. As he writes "Malevitj's black square contains both a European
revolt against the whole bourgeoisie civilization and a Russian longing for God in the
darkness ..." 38 In short, it seems to me a little doubtful
whether a picture of a black square can be used to prove the nature of Russian culture.
Bodin may give several counterarguments: That he used the black square only as an
illustration (not as a proof) of a cultural trait; That he provides much more convincing
evidence elsewhere in the book; That I have unfairly singled out one over-interpretation
from a book of more than one hundred pages. My reply would be that since Bodin does not
present other kinds of evidence (quantitative data), he necessarily relies on the
illustrations in order to convince. On the second and third point, I have to admit that he
is more convincing in other places, but the problem I have pointed out is not isolated. 39
Another example of a trait which is insufficiently established, is the bipolar nature
of the Russian mind. One might argue that Lotman and Uspenskij provide a wide variety of
evidence, including a large number of literary quotes, to convince the reader that the
Russians really have a bipolar mind. The problem, however, is that Lotman and Uspenskij's
evidence can selected by simply searching for examples which confirm the initial argument.
Evidence of this kind is less worth than evidence which is found by a methodology which
does not allow the researcher to select the confirming instances. A second objection to
Lotman and Uspenskij is that their research is largely focused on Russia. Thus, we do not
know whether the Russians are more bipolar than others. This, of course, is required if we
want to use the cultural traits to explain why Russia's history is different from the rest
of the world.
The examples of insufficiently established and contradictory claims about the Russian
culture can be multiplied. Against Brzezinski's claim in the introduction that the
Russians culture is low on commercial talent, we may quote a review by Paul Gregory in
which he writes that "Samuel Barron shows that, despite this obstacle, indigenous
Russian entrepreneurs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did a remarkably good job
of seeking out profit opportunities." 40 Against Walter
Laqueur's claim that Russians love authoritarian rule more than democracy, we may cite
Jeffrey Hahn who argues that there is "little support for the argument that Russian
political culture today is dominated by the autocratic traditions of the past. Rather, the
patterns that emerge suggest that Russian political thinking comes closer to what is found
in Western Industrial Democracies." 41 Against Vera Tolz' claim
that the Russians believe "a political opponent should be crushed rather than
listened to and accommodated", we could cite Gerhard Simon who writes that "What
has evolved in Russia is a consensus culture. Political decisions are to be taken in
consensus". 42 In short, there are many examples of how we may
arrive at contradictory claims about culture if we rely on simply giving a few quotes. 43
Given the above mentioned problems with the qualitative approach - the discriminate and
interpretive use of evidence and the many examples of contradictory claims by experts - we
might turn to the quantitative approach to see whether it is more reliable.
3.1.2 Quantitative evidence
To examine whether the Russians really desire a strong man above democracy, one might
design a questionnaire designed to reveal this kind of preference structure. For example,
Finifter and Mickiewicz found that 20% of the Russians in their survey "believed that
public order was more important than free speech". 44 By
using survey evidence of this kind one may hope to reduce the problem of discretion and
interpretation. At least it is possible to get the opposite result of what one expects
when one uses surveys, unlike when one selects a literary or academic quote to support
your own argument. Unfortunately, there are also many well-known problems with surveys.
A survey has to be comparative in order to establish whether the Russians really are
different from another culture. The need to do comparative research raises a large
statistical problem because different countries do not only have different cultures; they
also differ with respect to a number of other variables - the institutional environment,
the emotional connotation of terms and the level of wealth. This, in turn, means that it
is difficult to pin-point whether it is the culture which is really different or whether
observed differences are due to some other variables. For example, surveys have showed
that the Russians are more likely than Americans to dislike rich businessmen and to
believe that they have gained their money dishonestly. Whereas 59% of the Russians in a
telephone interview believed that those who tried to make money were often "not very
honest people", 39% of the Americans had the same belief. 45
Does this indicate a Russian anti-mercantile culture? It may do so, but it may also be
that institutional differences (the lack of clearly defined property rights) makes the
difference in beliefs really true i.e. that rich people in Russia have gained their wealth
dishonestly to a greater degree than rich people in the USA. 46
Similarly, a survey showing Russian risk aversiveness need not be culturally determined,
but a function of their low relative wealth. Moreover, Russian support (and dislike) for
democracy and market economy may be a function of the emotive connotations of these terms
or a short term opinion related to the economic situation, not a deep cultural
predisposition toward authoritarianism or democracy as we understand the terms in Western
political science. In short, surveys are in no way perfect tools to measure cultural
The problems mentioned above should not lead to the nihilistic conclusion that we
cannot prove anything about the Russian culture using statistics. Some results are more
reliable than others and Stepehen White has pointed out three sets of circumstances which
make it more likely that the effects in questions indicate a stable cultural attitude and
not other factors. 47 First, when the trait persist despite the
wishes and efforts of the government, as religious beliefs in the Soviet Union. Second,
when the differences persist despite similar institutional structures, such as political
differences within Easter Europe during the Communist era. Third, when the trait can be
found even when the individuals are outside the influences of the reward system set up by
communist regimes. An example of this occurs when immigrants from Russia to Israel and the
USA continue to exhibit collectivist and authoritarian attitudes. For example, in a study
by Zvi Gitelman 49% of the American immigrants to Israel agreed that a "strong leader
... can do more for the state that all the discussions and the laws" while 67% of the
Russian immigrants to Israel agreed to the same statement. 48 In
sum, the mentioned problems with statistical evidence can at least be reduced under
certain circumstances and quantitative evidence becomes more reliable.
3.1.3 Which is best, quantitative or
Given that both the quantitative and qualitative approach have weaknesses, how should
we proceed to establish a cultural trait? To use a concrete statement: How much faith
should we have in the proposition that "An independent judiciary and thus the
implementation of the rule of law is even less compatible with the traditions of the
Russian society than the division of power at legislative and executive levels". 49 An example of a qualitative piece of evidence to prove this occurred
when Yeltsin was in Norway in the autumn of 1996 and he gave the following comment when
asked about the Nikitin case (an environmental activist accused of spying): "I'm not
a judge. ... I'm higher than a judge". 50 This is revealing
because it indicates the political tradition within which Yeltsin operates - a tradition
lacking the western notion of the rule of law and clear distinctions between the
judiciary, the legislative and the administrative organs. However, it seems impossible to
say exactly how revealing the statement is i.e. to say precisely - on a scale from 0 to
100 - how much more certain would I be that the Russian culture lacks the concept of the
rule of law after hearing Yeltsin's statement.
The quantitative method of trying to prove the same question can be exemplified by
Solomon who has used a variety of sources, including opinion polls, to determine whether
the Russian culture is alien to the rule of law and the division of power.51 His conclusion is also that "public attachment to legal
principles did not run deep". 52 However, once again I am at
loss when asked exactly how much this should increase my confidence that the Russians
culture is alien to the rule of law.
In fact, I doubt whether there can be a general answer to the question of whether one
should try to prove the existence of a cultural trait using the quantitative or the
qualitative method since there seems to be pockets of reliability within both methods (and
oceans of unreliability). For instance, Kristian Gerner cites an example where a cartoon
in the magazine Crocodil - picturing mountains of fertilizers outside a train station - is
used to prove that the lack of growth in agricultural yield (despite the increase in
fertilizer production) can be attributed to a failure in the transportation and
distribution system. 53 This is an example of reliable qualitative
evidence since this cartoon would not be used in the magazine if it was not thought to be
funny - and it could not be funny unless it was a situation which many could recognize. In
any case, the qualitative and the quantitative approaches are not mutually incompatible.
The interview method combined with surveys as applied by the Harvard Refugee Project, the
Soviet Interview Project and in Zvi Gitelman's study of Soviet émigrés in Israel all use
both qualitative and quantitative evidence. The issue is thus not which is best, but how
each can be improved and used reliably. This is the topic of my next section.
3.1.4 The lessons
What are the lessons concerning the feasibility of establishing Russian cultural traits
using examples. The main lesson is that it is not impossible, but the paragraphs above
have pointed out some of the pitfalls to be avoided. First, it is not enough to cite one
or a few examples from works of fiction to prove that the Russians are characterized by
certain traits. Second, I believe the reliability of surveys increase when the questions
avoid general concepts such as freedom and justice, and focus on concrete questions.
Third, I believe one should explore a new avenue of research: to reveal cultures using
experiments. In the next paragraphs I shall discuss these three improvements in more
An excellent example of the possibility of using literature, while at the same time
avoid the problem of simply picking the examples one wants, is Fritz Gaenslen's article
"Culture and Decision Making in China, Japan, Russia and the USA". 54 In this article Ganslen uses statistical analysis of 1000 conflicts
as described by 272 authors in 514 works of fiction. These conflicts are examined
statistically, for example to see the extent to which the author describes it as
acceptable that an individual stands up against the majority. One of the findings is that
a public setting (as opposed to a small private setting) makes an American individual 6.2%
worse off (in terms of whether the individual is successful in gaining acceptance for his
argument), while a Russian is 12.3% worse off. Based on this kind of analysis Gaenslen
concludes that the Russians dislike individualistic behavior more than the Americans.
A good example of a survey using concrete rather than grand concepts, is Schiller,
Boycko and Korobov. By avoiding concepts like democracy and market
economy, they increase the reliability of their results because they reduce the potential
bias resulting from the fact that grand concepts often have very different meanings in
different cultures. In their survey people were asked about how they would react to
everyday situations, such as whether they would charge interest rates on a loan to a
friend (6% of the Russians said yes while 29% of the Americans answered positively) or
whether they think the government should regulate the price of flowers if the sellers
raised the prices in response to a sudden shortage of flowers (54% of the Russians and 28%
of the Americans agreed to price controls, though the proportion which thought the price
increase was unfair was almost equal at 33%). 56 These kind of
questions yield highly informative results and should be repeated at a larger scale than
the Schiller, Boycko and Korobov study which only used telephone interviews with about one
hundred respondents in each country.
Finally, my own suggestion would be to use experiments to reveal the cultures of people
in many cases. 57 When Barner-Barry and Hody claim that the Russians
have "a deeply held cultural fear of innovation" 58 (i.e.
in the terminology of economist: risk-aversiveness) this can be studied experimentally.
One simple example of this, is to make people choose between the following two options:
Alternative A: $100 for sure
Alternative B: $200 with the probability of 0.5 and $0 with the probability of 0.5
A risk-neutral person would be indifferent between the two options since the expected
payoff from each is $100. If we change the probabilities in alternative B to $200 with the
probability of 0.6 and $0 with the probability of 0.4, a risk-averse person would still
choose alternative A despite the fact that the expected payoff from alternative B is
higher. By varying the probabilities (and payoffs) and by presenting this kind of choice
to a number of people, one finds a reliable picture of the average risk attitude of a
group of people. Similar experiments, based on bargaining, can be conducted to reveal
whether the Russians are more concerned with justice than other cultures and to reveal the
degree to which people trust each (to determine whether it is true that the Russians
really have a pessimistic view of man). In short, it is possible to measure some several
cultural traits reliably because an experimental situation allows us to keep certain
factors constant and only varying the variable we are interested in. 59
3.2 Demonstrating the cause of the cultural trait
In addition to giving examples, there is one other method of establishing the
plausibility of a cultural trait - to demonstrate the causal mechanism that creates the
culture. I shall consider three commonly mentioned causes of culture - geography, climate
and historical experiences. I shall also consider whether cultures can be the result of
intentional pressures and more originally, internal psychological mechanisms.
3.2.1 Conventional causes and the problem of
The Russians are sometimes said to be excessively concerned with security. 60 One causal story used to justify this argument, is the lack of
natural frontiers around Russia. This in turn, led to a history of repeated invasions and
consequently to a concern with security. Another causal story, trying to establish the
same point, is that because of the climatic conditions in Russia, the soil is not very
fertile. Thus, the Russians became accustomed to living on the edge between survival and
extinction. One single year of bad harvest could be fatal and this created a culture in
which no risks, no innovations, nothing that could upset the delicate equilibrium was
tried. In all these examples we see how geography, climate and historical experience may
enter as a cause of a cultural trait.
There is one problem with the above proof of cultural traits: Why should we believe
that a cause which affected the Russians more than one hundred years ago continue to
affect the Russians of today? After all the Russians today are not he same Russians that
experienced the Mongol invasion. Sometimes the continuity is simply assumed i.e. that a
culture - once established - is automatically inherited from generation to generation.
This, as Mary McAuley has pointed out, is not convincing because it ignores the question
of how the culture is transmitted. 61 True, there are well
established channels for the transmission of culture - by parents conveying norms and
beliefs in the upbringing of the children, education and many other agents of
socialization. Despite the obvious nature of these mechanism, we should still focus on the
transmission because evidently not all culture is perfectly replicated in the next
generation. Furthermore, the assumption of automatic transmission leads us to ignore a
potentially important source of cultural traits - internal psychological mechanism.
3.2.2 Internal psychological mechanisms as a
cause of political cultures
It is claimed that the Russians commonly believe that the Leader is just and good,
while those around him are responsible for all the problems. 62 This
myth appeared both under the Tsar and under Stalin. One might then be tempted to argue
that the culture was simply inherited from the parents to their children. Yet, one might
also explain the trait by internal psychological mechanisms without invoking inherited
beliefs. The psychological mechanism being that humans have a tendency to adjust their
beliefs and desires in order to live happy lives (cognitive dissonance). In hard times it
is a comforting thought that all hope is not lost, that if the leader heard about your
problems he would correct the mistakes. If this is the true causal story, then the belief
in a just leader was not inherited. Instead, it was independently created by the
circumstances of the two periods.
The Just Leader myth is not an isolated example of the fallacy of assuming that
cultures simply are inherited. The cult of Lenin could also be presented as an inherited
trait where Lenin simply became a substitute for what God or the Tsar had been before the
Revolution. However, as Kristian Gerner points out, "the cult was also the outcome of
deliberate actions by the Bolshevik leaders ..." 63 Thus the
Lenin cult was not simply an automatic continuation of Russian traditions, there was a
conscious decision to create the cult - to create Lenin-corners in public buildings and to
make children in kindergarten sing songs to phrase Lenin. Without this intentional effort
we do not know whether the myth would have continued to exist.
Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, it is important to focus on internal psychological
mechanisms because it throws some doubt on the argument that the Russians culture is more
bipolar than other cultures. There seems to be a universal tendency in the mind of humans
that we dislike ambiguity and uncertainty and we like to have good reasons when we act. 64 Given the dislike to act on weak reasons we unconsciously tend to
shape our beliefs (make them more extreme) so as to give us stronger justification for our
actions than the weak justification gained from the objectively true beliefs. But, this
tendency is universal, not specific to the Russians. To examine whether the Russians for
some reason suffer from this more than others, empirical investigation is needed, not
discretionary selection of literary quotes. 65
In order to prove a cultural trait we need to give empirical evidence that it exists
and a plausible story as to why it exist. This needs to be done in a way which reduces the
possibility of simply searching for evidence which proves your original claims. One such
way is experiments which, to my knowledge, have not been used comparatively to measure
Russian cultural traits. A second suggestion presented in this section, was to focus on
internal psychological mechanisms as a cause of cultures.
4. The link
- How to convincingly demonstrate the link between a cultural trait and its claimed
One may claim, as Stephen Wegren does, that the Russian cultural thirst for justice
hinders the development of a well-functioning market economy. 66
However, to prove the argument it is not enough to show that the Russians really are more
concerned about justice than other cultures. The author also needs to give some kind of
argument as to why the cultural traits has the claimed consequences. This, I believe can
be done in two ways. Either by demonstrating a causal connection between the trait and its
consequences or by providing statistics which suggests that the two variables are
connected even if you do not know exactly how.
4.1 Historical correlations as proof
To justify a link by historical correlation is simply to say that the statistical
record shows - in general - that when a culture is highly concerned about justice, the
economy does worse than when a culture is less concerned about justice. One may then use
statistical techniques to establish the reliability of these statements. For example, one
may find, as Almond and Verba did in their classic study The Civic Culture, that there is
a positive correlation between civic culture (as they defined it) and a stable democracy. 67 Of the many well documented statistical and interpretive problems of
this approach, 68 I shall focus on two with special relevance to
The first problem occurs when we misinterpret the causal direction of two variables
that are correlated. As a concrete illustration we may use the prediction that Russia will
not become democratic because it has a weak civic spirit. To justify the prediction one
may point to a correlation - that those countries which are weak on civic spirit also are
non-democratic. One then interprets this to mean that a civic spirit is causally important
in creating democracies and, conversely, a weak civic spirit results in non-democratic
regimes. The problem with this, as Brian Barry has pointed out, is that the causal
direction may flow in the other direction. It may be the existence of a democratic
institutions which foster the growth of a civic spirit. 69 Indeed,
if we look at one of the great classics in political science Tocqueville's Democracy in
America, we read that "I do not know whether a jury is useful to the litigants, but I
am sure it is very good for those who have to decide the case. I regard it as one of the
most effective means of popular education at society's disposal". 70
In other words, it is institutions (here: the jury system) which fosters democratic
attitudes, not the opposite. 71 If the causal relationship goes from
institutions to attitudes it is wrong to use the correlation to justify the original claim
- that culture is the cause of well-functioning democracies. It would also be wrong to
predict that a low civic spirit in Russia would prevent the establishment of democracy
since one could create the culture by introducing democratic institutions.
The second problem is that a weak correlation does not necessarily imply the absence of
a strong causal relationship. As an example we may return to the claim in the introduction
- that the political system must be compatible with the political culture. Suppose an
empirical investigation finds a weak correlation between changes in the political system
and changes in the political culture. However, it is still possible that political culture
is an important determinant of the political system since there may be inertia which makes
change discrete. The figure below tries to illustrate this. The two lines represent
respectively the degree of a democratic culture and the degree to which the system is
democratic. We see that within a band these may go in opposite direction i.e. there is a
low correlation. However, at some point the gap between the two is so large that a
revolution occurs (by assumption). If this is a true story, then we have low correlation
between two variables, but at the same time the change in the political system must be
explained using precisely the two mentioned variables.
4.2 Providing causal mechanisms to justify the
The second way to support an argument linking two variables, is by providing a
plausible causal link between the two. Once again I shall focus on arguments relating to
the Russian concern for justice and how this affects the effectiveness of an economy. How
might these two variables be related in Russia today?
To be efficient a market economy requires goods and services to be traded at free
market prices i.e. the price which makes the supply of a good equal to its demand. 72 A concern for justice may prevent that price from being realized
because people demand government regulations to reduce what they consider to be unfair
prices. Alternatively, some markets may fail to exist because people simply refuse to
trade at prices they consider unfair. 73 I have tried to illustrate
this situation in the figure below. The figure is a standard demand-supply diagram where
supply raises as price increases, while demand falls as the price increases. The market
price, p*, is given by the intersection of supply and demand which is the point where the
amount supplied equals the amount demanded of that good. However, a concern for justice
may cause the real price to be below this price, such as p**, which in turn creates an
inefficient economy because its regulated cheapness may lead to inefficient uses of the
resource. An example of this may be the price of bread in the Soviet Union which was so
low that it was sometimes used to feed animals.
The above paragraph illustrates one possible causal link between a concern for justice
and an inefficient market economy. By giving this story one increases the plausibility of
the cultural explanation since one presents reasons to believe in a causal connection, not
simply assuming that the link is obvious.
Unsurprisingly, the method of proving a consequence by pointing to a causal mechanism
is not without problems. One such problem is that a trait may have contradictory
consequences. Assume that the Russian elite is characterized by a culture which accepts
brutality and authoritarian methods. We may then try to inquire what effects this trait
has on the stability of the political system. 74 One plausible
causal connection is that authoritarian rule makes a system more stable because it denies
the potential opposition the opportunity to organize itself. However, another causal
connection could be that the authoritarian methods alienates people, thus increasing the
desire to revolt and thereby making the system unstable. We now have two causal chains
both running out of one cultural trait but with two opposite consequences. It would be
meaningless to ask which of these causal mechanisms is true since it is perfectly possible
that both exist at the same time. 75 The important question is which
effect is the strongest i.e. the net effect. However, questions of net effects are very
difficult to answer (in advance of an event) because we do not have data on all the
relevant variables. This means that predictions based on cultural traits are plagued with
great uncertainty. However, there might still be room for cultural explanations after an
event has occurred since we then know which effect was the strongest. To be specific,
after the collapse of the Soviet Union we know that the causal chains producing
instability were stronger than those producing stability. Thus, we may distinguish between
the reliability of predictions and the reliability of explanations based on cultural
A second, more obvious problem, is that there are many variables which affect the
stability of a political system. To illustrate this problem I shall use Geoffrey Gorer and
John Rickman's claim that Russian history may be largely explained by the practice of
swaddling. 76 Admittedly this is a bit of a dead horse, but I do not
intend to use the whip where it is commonly applied. Instead of criticizing the
speculative link between swaddling and a culture of expansionism, I shall argue that there
may be many other variables which also determine whether the Russians have an expansive
culture. For example, the claimed culture of risk-aversiveness points to a culture of
caution, not expansiveness. Moreover, non-cultural variables may also affect whether the
Russians really are expansive or not, such as the strength of their military forces.
Hence, the chain from one fact (swaddling) to a cultural trait (expansiveness) and finally
to its societal consequences (an aggressive empire) is not possible even if there is an
isolated and plausible link between the trait and the consequences. We must also consider
all the other variables affecting the trait and its consequences i.e. we need to use
general equilibrium analysis, not partial equilibrium analysis. Needless to say this is
close to impossible since it requires a general theory of society - how preferences and
beliefs are shaped, how these transform into actions, the aggregate consequences of all
the actions and how this in turn affect belief and preferences (starting the circle all
over again). In the words of Jon Elster we are light-years away from such a theory. 77
How reliably is it possible to establish a link between a trait and its supposed social
consequences? The above discussion has pointed to many difficulties: The problems of using
correlation as proof of causal connections between two variables and the problem of having
to consider the net effect of all the variables that affect a relationship. These problems
are more serious than the problems involved in proving that a cultural trait exist since
the statistical problems in proving a causal relationship is greater and since using a
link to predict requires a general theory of causal connections among all the relevant
5. Changability - Is it possible to change cultures
Assume, for the sake of argument, that we have solved the two issues discussed so far
in this paper. To be concrete, even if you can prove that the Russians today lack a civic
culture and that this causes problems for the quality of their democracy, the prediction
that Russia will not develop into a stable democracy may be false. The prediction may be
false because it relies on the implicit assumption that the culture cannot be changed. If
it is possible to change the culture, then the relevant variable is not today's political
culture, but the culture that will exist tomorrow. It is the incompatibility between
tomorrow's culture and tomorrow's system which makes the prediction true. Thus, to examine
to what extent the future culture can assumed to be the same as today's culture we must
ask to what extent it is plausible to assume that cultures can be changed.
5.1 A case study - The aim and the effort
To assess this one might use the history of the Soviet Union. The victory of the
Bolsheviks in 1917 started a massive attempt to change the culture of the Russians and a
number of other nations. Over the next seventy years a systematic effort was made to
develop what might be called the "Soviet Man". There is little doubt about the
importance attached to this by Soviet leaders. For example, Chernenko wrote that the party
"seeks to construct a new world" which in turn required "the constant
concern for the development ... of the man of the new world, for his ideological and moral
growth." 78 Furthermore, the Party program always emphasized
the re-education of people as an important goals, as demonstrated by the 1985 program in
which a chapter (ch. V) was devoted to "Ideological-Education Work, Public Education,
Science and Culture". A typical statement from this chapter is "The CSPU
considers the main task of its ideological work to be in education the working people in a
spirit of high ideological integrity and dedication to communism ..." 79 Given this aim, how did the Soviet leaders try to achieve it?
In the very beginning the effort was directed through the Commissariat of the
Enlightenment led by A. V. Lunacharsky. The main committee under this commissariat,
Glavpolitprosvet (Chief Committee for Political Education) had 21 500 village reading room
and 800 political schools with 265 000 enrolled students (in 1925). 80
By 1976, the effort was even more organized, with 1.3 million propagandists, 7000 rooms of
political enlightenment and 3.7 million agitators. One organization, The All Union
Knowledge Society (Znanie) had 3 million members in 1976 and delivered 24 million lectures
that year to 1245 million listeners. 81 In addition there was a
systematic effort to change beliefs by visual agitation, a systematic change of holidays
and anniversaries, biased mass-media reports and ideological education at all levels of
life - in kindergarten, schools, universities, the army and at the workplace. It was a
truly gigantic attempt to change the beliefs and values of a whole country.
5.2 Was it a success?
To what degree did the Russian culture change? Despite a much quoted assertion by
Samuel Huntington to the contrary, the answer must be that the Communists were not
successful in creating the intended new Soviet Man. Today we know that nationalism,
selfishness, alcoholism, laziness, religiosity and many other traits of human nature were
not eradicated and the Marxist-Leninist ideology was never internalized (or even
understood). This does not mean that the Communist system had no effect on the culture of
the Russians. Some cultural traits may have been reinforced by the system, such as the
possibly collectivist and authoritarian nature of the Russian culture. Finally, some new
traits may have been created unintentionally, such as cynicism as the result of
institutional hypocrisy, apathy as a consequence of the lack of political freedom and,
maybe most importantly, fear and lack of trust resulting from the Stalin period.
Overall, based on the Soviet experiment it does not appear that cultures can be easily
changed intentionally. However, cultures may change unintentionally and this invalidates
the implicit assumption of cultural continuity underlying predictions based on cultural
traits. Yet, I am reluctant to make this a strong criticism of cultural predictions since
I am unsure exactly how big the problem is in practice. Theoretically the assumption is
invalid as long as it is unargued, but the flaw is not fatal as long as there is a great
deal of empirical continuity between yesterday's and tomorrow's culture (at least in the
To avoid excessive repetition I shall not summarize my results as I have already done
this in the conclusions in the sub-section. Instead I shall summarize my current position
on the cultural approach to Russian politics.
It would be foolish to deny that cultural differences exist and that they affect the
course of history. For example, Ronald Inglehart has demonstrated stable difference in
interpersonal trust and life satisfaction between a large number of countries. 82 However, it is perfectly possible to know that something exist and
plays a role, but at the same time admit that we simply do not have enough information to
measure its precise role and importance. In some cases we may be lucky and find pockets of
reliability - conditions that are particularly favorable to draw reliable conclusions. The
general theme of my recommendations has been to actively seek to create these pockets
(i.e. experiments). Yet, we may doubt whether predictions based on cultural trait can
every become reliable. Even if we have a well established trait we do not have a general
theory of society which allows prediction based on the trait. If there is a more general
lesson in this it must be that we might be better off if we cancel the search for a master
key to history and instead focus our attention on small scale phenomena. To claim that we
can predict whether Russia will have a functioning democracy and an effective market
economy is to deceive ourselves, to satisfy the human desire for certainty at the cost of
1 See, for example, Putnam (1993) who recently has argued in favour of the cultural
approach and Tarrow (1996), who argues against Putnam. More specifically on the cultural
approach to Soviet history, see Malia (1994) for a book- length argument against the
culturalists and Pipes (1994) or Brzezinski (1989) for arguments in favour of the
2 Brzezinski (1989), p. 177.
3 Cited in Hahn (1991), p. 398.
4 Fukuyama (1993), p. 16.
5 Cited in Tucker (1973), p. 174.
6 White, (1979), p. 1.
7 White, (1979), p 64.
8 White himself (see White (1984b)), admits that he might have exaggerated the
difference between Russia and the rest of Europe on some accounts.
9 See also McAuley's (1984) comments on White, p. 16.
10 This critique, of course, does not affect those who believe that the aim of the
cultural approach is to interpret history, not to exaplain events causally. This approach
has become increasingly popular, see for examples Welch (1993) and my comments in section
11 White (1979), p. 87-88.
12 For more arguments against the inclusion of behavioural variables, see Brown (1984)
and Fleron (1996). My arguments are informed by, but not based on, these works.
13 Tucker (1973), p. 179.
14 I owe this view to Jon Elster. See Elster (1983a) especially p. 14-24 and Elster
(1989c), pp. 145-156, 157-169 and 201-220.
15 The real culture is the values and beliefs indicated by actual behaviour, while the
ideal culture is the values and beliefs we claim to have (expressed through opinion
surveys). For example, in a famous survey by LaPiere (in 1934) 92% of the sampled hotels
and resturants in the USA said they would not accept Chinese guests in their resturants,
but only one resturant actually denied a Chinese couple admission when they were faced
with the real situation (cited in Brown (1984), p. 159).
16 See, for exampe, Lane (1992), p. 364.
17 Dicks (1960), p. 637 (my emphasis).
18 According to Tucker (1973), p. 177 n.14, the distinction between real and ideal
cultural pattern was introduced by Ralph Linton in 1967.
19 Petro (1995), p. 3. In direct contradiction one could cite Keenan's (1986) long
discussion of the Novgorodian sub-culture of dissent and Brown (1984), p. 176ff, who makes
precisely the distinction which Petro claims is missing.
20 I am indebted to Paal Kolstoe and the other seminar participants (University of
Oslo, October 8, 1996) for bringing this problem to my attention.
21 See Sen (1982) for a discussion of this problem.
22 For more on the ambiguity of the concept of justice, see Melberg (1996a).
23 See, for example, Keenan (1986), p. 126.
24 Duch (1993), p. 598.
25 Simon (1995), p. 249.
26 This is based on Elster (1989b), p. 97-151.
27 Gaenslen (1986), p. 92. Note: This is not a direct quotation.
28 Keenan (1986), p. 119.
29 Lotman and Uspenskij (1984).
30 Academic honesty requires me to admit that upon reflection my definition of culture
appears weak since not all stable differences in beliefs and values are normally described
as cultural differences (see note46). I am not sure how to solve the problem except to
abandon the concept of culture. This is not as drastic as it sounds because - as the
anthropologist Adam Kuper has argued - when we by cultural differences mean differences in
belief, we might simply write "differences in beliefs" or when we by cultural
differences mean differences in ideology, we can talk about "differences in
31 Barner-Barry and Hody (1995), p. 46.
32 The distinction is inspired by Hume's discussion of proof by induction vs.
deduction. More recently, I have been informed by the methodological debate between J.
Elster and G. A. Cohen in Theory and Society 1982 (issues 11 and 12).
33 I am here indebted to Paal Kolstoe who made me think more closely about qualitative
and quantitative analysis.
34 Corten (1992), p. 14.
35 Barner-Barry and Hody (1995), see, for example, p. 40, p. 46, p. 62, p. 212, p. 221.
36 Another example of similar scant treatment of evidence and the need for reference is
37 The analogy is inspired by Wittgenstein (cited in Elster (1989c), p. 149).
38 Bodin, (1993), p. 131 (my translation).
39 For more on this see Melberg, Hans O. (1996c). In short, see Bodins interpretation
of the importance of the centralistic perspective in Icon paintings (p. 23) and his
interpretation of a poem on p. 104-5.
40 Gregory (1987), p. 77. Admittedly, these statements describe different time periods.
This weakens the contradiction, but it is not eliminated since Brzezinski seems to think
the lack of commerical talent is an old trait.
41 Hahn (1991), p. 393.
42 Simon (1995), p. 248.
43 Because I have made strong claims and promised numerous examples, the following
disagreements between "experts" may be added to those already mentioned: Keenan
(1986) vs. Bodin (1996) on the importance of the Church in forming the Russian political
culture; Simon (1995), p. 147, vs. Pipes (1974) on the level of trust between the
government and its citizens and Malia (1994) vs. Brzezinski (1989) or Pipes (1994) on the
degree to which ideology or culture shaped the Soviet regime.
44 Finifter and Mickiewicz (1992), p. 860 (Survey from 1989).
45 Schiller & Boycko & Korobov (1991), p. 395.
46 The different attitude toward businessmen exemplifies the already mentioned problem
of distinguishing between cultural beliefs and other kinds of beliefs. Intuitively I am
reluctant to call the difference cultural as long as it is a true belief (true is here
defined as rational given the evidence). If, however, the truth changed without a change
in belief I would be more inclined to accept the difference in attitudes as a cultural
47 White (1984a), p. 360.
48 Gitelman (1977), p. 559.
49 Simon (1995), p. 249.
50 Cited in Gomes (1996, p. 2.
51 I here rely on Fleron (1996).
52 Cited in Fleron (1996), p. 244.
53 Gerner (1984b), p. 103.
54 Gaenslen (1986).
55 Schiller & Boycko & Korobov (1991).
56 Schiller & Boycko & Korobov (1991), respectively p. 393 and p. 389.
57 This suggestion is not as novel as I initially though since I came across the same
suggestion in Elkins and Simeon (1979), p. 138.
58 Barner-Barry and Hody (1995), p. 46.
59 See Bar-Hillel and Yaari (1984) for a good example of how this can be done (with
American and Israeli respondents). To my knowledge no comparable research has been done on
60 Barner, Barry and Hody (1995), p. 62.
61 McAuley (1984), p. 23.
62 This example is taken from McAuley (1984), p. 19-20.
63 Gerner (1986), p. 33.
64 For more on this see Elster (1993), p. 14. See also the famous Ellesberg paradox in
the economic literature.
65 Zimmerman (1995) provides some data on the extremism of Russian beliefs (40% of the
Russians agreed with the statement that there is only 'one right philosophy') which
indirectly can be used to assess the bipolar theory if we could create comparative data
from Wester countries.
66 Wegren (1994), pp. 222-229.
67 Almond and Verba (1963).
68 See Melberg (1996b), for a survey of the problems with correlation as proof.
69 Barry (1970), p. 93 ff.
70 Cited in Elster (1983b), p. 96.
71 We may, of course, also have a reciprocal relationship between institutions and
culture in which case we could also have virtous and evil circles.
72 The optimality of a free market economy is only true under certain assumptions, such
as no externalities, no economies of scale and many other technical ssumptions.
73 Kahneman, Knetsch and Thaler (1986) for an interesting discussion of how norm of
fairness can constrain profit seeking.
74 This example is inspired by Elster (1989a), pp. 16-17.
75 This is implicitly a critique of the search for laws in history. It is perfectly
possible that there are no (simple) lawlike relationship between suppression and
stability, while at the same time there are strong causal relationships between the two.
76 Cited in Pye (1991), p. 495.
77 Elster (1983a), p. 86.
78 Burant (1987), p. 273.
79 The Programme of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (draft) (1985), p. 72.
80 White (1979), p. 70.
81 White (1979), pp. 77-80.
82 Inglehart (1988).
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