chapter  1
22 Pages

A World of Difference: The Public Philosophies and Political Behaviors of Rival American Cultures

ByAaron Wildavsky

In the 1960s, the combination of individualism (the self that was to do its own directing and cultivating) and collectivism (the bringing out of individuals from isolation into community) was made manifest. The single worst misunderstanding about American politics is the joining together of two separate and distinct political cultures with opposing preferences for policies and institutions, competitive individualism and egalitarian collectivism, as a single entity. Individualistic cultures seek self-regulation as a substitute for authority. The different attitudes toward authority in individualistic and egalitarian cultures make a world of difference in the policies they pursue and, hence, in the problems they pose for government. The dramatic turn America has taken from the welfare to the regulatory state is attributable to the egalitarian desire to punish departures from purity that are conceived of as implying inequality. An egalitarian political culture demands both an increase in bureaucracy and a decrease in authority.