Cultural theory revised: Only five cultures or more?

O. van Heffen, Pieter J. Klok

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    This article deals with cultural theory in the version of Thompson, Ellis and Wildavsky. Cultural theory is important for research in the area of political and policy science because this theory has the pretension of pinning down endogenous preference formation. Using Durkheim's dimensions, 'social integration' and 'regulation of the actions of individuals', cultural theory distinguishes five ways of life or cultures, namely individualism, hierarchy, egalitarianism, fatalism and autonomy. The statement that there are only five ways of life is, however, the result of a selective interpretation of the dimension, 'regulation of the actions of individuals'. A broad perspective on this dimension - including the 'horizontal' aspects of human relations - will lead to the conclusion that there is a sixth culture existent that has been neglected by current cultural theory. This sixth culture is essentially 'mutualism-driven'. In this mutualist way of life, people hold highly specified positions and are closely associated. The production of goods and services within this culture is based on cooperation and mutual adjustment. Power is widely spread, but not because equal rights and duties are considered a good thing. Knowledge and skills are primary in mutualist settings, and power follows knowledge and skills.Keywords: cultural theory; dimensions of sociality; preference formation; ways of life; social organization
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)289-306
    Number of pages18
    JournalContemporary political theory
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


    • METIS-217253

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