Mike Rossi


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Courses » Politics and Culture » Syllabus

Content: Politics and Culture: Syllabus

Table of Content


The structure of this class will not simply entail lectures and note taking. Readings will be followed by writing assignments meant to demonstrate the student’s ability to apply the concepts and knowledge learned. You are encouraged to challenge all conceptual formulations and develop your own approaches to problems discussed in the course. Do not simply take the arguments in the readings as be-all, end-all proclamations. Because the class will rely heavily on discussions of the readings and critically analyzing points and counter-points to many arguments, it is critical you attend class prepared, and arrive having completed the required reading. Class lectures are not solely based on assigned readings but will build on what we have read with new information provided by me. I have absolutely no problem giving unannounced quizzes if I feel the class is not keeping up.

Grading Weights

Students’ final evaluation will be determined by the following criteria:

Work Result Weight Due
First paper assignment 20% Session 7
Second paper assignment 30% Session 15
Final exam (take home) 30% Day and time scheduled exam would end
Class participation 20% All sessions
Due Dates

All papers must be submitted in hard copy and uploaded to the university online plattform. Late papers will result in a deduction of 1/3 of a grade each day they are late – including weekends. You may post your late paper to halt any additional penalties, but it must be followed up with a hard copy. There are no extensions. Assignments are given well in advance for you to manage your time



Final Exam

Your Final Exam will be cumulative and take-home. Assignment sheets will be given on or immediately before the last day of class. You are to upload a completed paper to the university online plattform by time and date the exam is officially scheduled to end.


Class participation is accumulated throughout the semester through active engagement. This includes speaking in class discussion, posting online comments, successfully answering unannounced quizzes and short writing assignments, and coming to office hours (if necessary). Each time a student “participates”, a point will be awarded, with a maximum of 20 to be earned by the end of the semester. Please note that attendance is not related to participation. You can have a perfect attendance record but if you remain silent, you are not “participating”

Provided Work Material

There are no books for you to purchase. All readings are available for .pdf download online.

Session Content
Introduction: What is Culture?
Session 1

Taking Cultural Preferences Seriously in Political Science

  • Read the syllabus, familiarize yourself with class
Session 2

Conceptualizing Political Culture

  • “The Many Voices of Political Culture"
  • Hegemony and Culture
[Lai86, pp. 1 - 20]
Part I: Theoretical Approaches to Political Culture

Session 3

Theories of Social Capital

  • Robert Putman, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, (Princeton University Press, 1993), ch. 5: “Tracing the Roots of Civic Community”, pp. 121 – 162
  • Putnam, ch. 6: “Social Capital and Institutional Success”, pp. 163 – 185
Session 4

Critiques of Social Capital

  • Filippo Sabetti, Village Politics and the Mafia in Sicily (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), “Epilogue: The Past as the Future”, pp. 221 – 240
  • Shari Berman, “Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic”, World Politics, vol. 49 (April 1997), pp. 401 – 29
Session 5

Theories of Social Character

  • Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, vol. 72, no. 3 (Summer 1993), pp. 22 – 49
  • Lawrence E. Harrison, The Central Liberal Truth: How Politics Can Change a Culture and Save it From Itself, (Oxford University Press, 2006), ch. 9: “Guidelines for Progressive Cultural Change”, pp. 206 – 225
Session 6

Political Symbolism as a Dynamic Variable of Culture

  • Nicolai Petro, Crafting Democracy: How Novgorod Has Coped with Rapid Social Change, (Cornell University Press, 2004), ch. 4 “Three Keys to Understanding Rapid Social Change”, pp. 95 – 125
Part II: The Role of Culture in Collective and Historical Memory
Session 7

Theories of Collective Memory

  • Eric Hobsbawm, “The Social Formation of the Past: Some Questions” Past and Present, no. 55 (May, 1972), pp. 3 – 17
  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso Press, 1991), ch. 5: “Old Languages, New Models”, pp. 67 – 82
First Writing Assignment Due
Sessions 8 - 11

How Nations Remember their History

  • Barry Schwartz, “Social Change and Collective Memory: The Democratization of George Washington”, American Sociological Review, vol. 56, no. 2 (April, 1991), pp. 221 – 236
  • Hugh Trevor-Roper, “The Invention of Tradition: The Highland Tradition of Scotland”, in The Invention of Tradition, Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Rangers, eds. (Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 15 – 41
  • Paschalis M. Kitromilides, “On the Intellectual Content of Greek Nationalism: Paparrigopoulos, Byzantium and the Great Idea”, in Byzantium and the Modern Greek Identity, David Ricks and Paul Magdalino, eds., (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 1998), pp. 25 – 34
  • Thomas A. Emmert, “Kosovo: Development and Impact of a National Ethic”, in Nation and Ideology: Essays in Honor of Wayne S. Vucinich, Ivo Banac, John G. Ackerman, and Roman Szporluk, eds. (Columbia University Press, 1981), pp. 61 – 86
  • Myron Aronoff, Israeli Visions and Divisions: Cultural Change and Political Conflict (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1995), ch. 3. “The Manipulation of Political Culture under the Likud”, pp. 43 – 67
Part III: Culture as a Tool of Democracy and Authoritarianism

Session 12

How Culture (Ab)Uses the Past to Legitimize the Present

  • Russel Shorto, “How Christian Were the Founders?”, The New York Times Magazine, February 11, 2010.
Sessions 12 - 13

How Culture Legitimize and Brings Down Dictatorships

  • Ian Kershaw, The ‘Hitler Myth’: Image and Reality in the Third Reich (Oxford University Press, 1987), ch. 3: “’Symbol of the Nation’: The Propaganda Profile of Hitler, 1933 – 1936”, pp. 48 – 82
  • Jan Kubik, The Power of Symbols Against the Symbols of Power: The Rise of Solidarity and the Fall of State Socialism in Poland (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), ch. 8: “The Role of Symbols in the Construction and Deconstruction of the Polish People’s Republic”, pp. 239 – 269
Sessions 13 - 14

How Culture can (Re)Construct a Democracy: A Way Forward?

  • Nicolai Petro, Crafting Democracy: How Novgorod Has Coped with Rapid Social Change, (Cornell University Press, 2004), ch 6 “Symbols at Work”, pp. 146 – 180
  • Michael Rossi, “In Search of a Democratic Cultural ‘Alternative’: Serbia’s European Heritage from Dositej Obradovi? to OTPOR”, Nationalities Papers vol. 40, no. 6 (November), pp. 853 – 878.
Epilogue: American Pop Culture as a Universal Model?
Sessions 14 - 15

A Culture of Consumerism in Postwar America

  • Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America, (New York: Vintage Books, 2003), ch. 6: ”Commerce: Reconfiguring Community Marketplaces”, pp. 257 – 289
Session 15 

That Ain’t No High Culture You Got!

  • David Brooks, On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), ch. 3: “Americans: Bimbos of the World”, pp. 86 – 110
*** Second Writing Assignment Due Session 15***
Session 16

Last Day of Class

*** Take Home Final Exam Due uploaded to Sakai no later than scheduled exam date and time ***

You may of course upload your paper to Sakai any time before the due date. I will begin grading papers as soon as they are uploaded.



©Michael Rossi – http://michael-rossi.demokratio.info