chapter  12
13 Pages

A Cultural Theory of Responsibility

ByAaron Wildavsky

The dimensions of cultural theory, because they are crucial dimensions of social life, also comprise the matrix out of which different senses of responsibility, matching the different cultures, are associated. This chapter argues that each culture generates characteristic responsibilities. These characteristics should be viewed as part of an "as, if, and when" theory; individuals who identify with each of the various cultures are predicted to adopt as their own those responsibilities that they believe, correctly or mistakenly, are likely to help strengthen their way of life. The social ideal of individualistic cultures is self-regulation. Its adherents favor bidding and bargaining in order to reduce the need for authority. Hierarchy is institutionalized authority. Its members justify inequality on grounds that specialization and division of labor enables people to live together with greater harmony and effectiveness than do alternative arrangements. Egalitarians abhor inequality; it can never be justified.