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The ontological and epistemological status of culture has received much attention in recent social science literature (Sewell 1999). This article assumes a parsimonious position on these debates. Culture as a concept has a cognitive and material dimension. As a form of cognition, culture is the realm of shared meanings that permits mutually informed social interaction within bounded spaces. This anthropological view of culture points to culture as a medium of social life and measure it in the ‘thick description’ of shared social practices (Geertz 1973). Culture as material object refers to expressive forms such as art, music, literature, architecture—more recently, state institutions and legal codes. Material culture is analytically distinct from but not unrelated to the anthropological concept of culture. This entry traces the development of both senses of culture in post-war European Studies. While individual nation states have diverse intellectual traditions that articulate themselves diﬀerently in cultural studies, this entry will focus on commonalties rather than diﬀerences.
1. Culture In The Shadows: West European Studies To The 1980s
Until the mid-1980s, culture as either an analytic frame or causal variable was conspicuously absent from the social science research on Europe. Apart from Elias’ studies of court society and the civilizing process that linked modern notions of manners to the formation of the nation state (Elias 1994) and Kantorowicz’s study of the king’s ‘two bodies’ (1957) (both of whom were ‘rediscovered’ in the 1980s), culture, for the most part, remained in the shadows of social science analysis. The work of British cultural historian Raymond Williams (1958) that followed in a tradition of 1930s European Marxist cultural analysis was a rare exception to the general trend. Williams’ cultural and historical sociology was the precursor to what became known as British Cultural Studies in the 1970s (for example, Hoggart 1961).
Two dimensions of culture’s transparency accounted for its absence in European Studies. First, intellectuals did not question Eurocentrism—the idea that Europe was the seat of civility and apex of modern civilization. Weber’s ‘Introduction’ to The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958) suggests the embeddedness of Eurocentrism. The hegemonic position of the European cultural heritage in the West rendered it moot as an analytic category among sociologists and political scientists. European culture with a capital ‘C’ was elite culture and left to the purview of art historians and literary critics.
Second, culture was absent, but traditions were not. There was an implicit assumption in social science that traditions, however under speciﬁed, played a role in European political life. The collective mentalite of European society—and social science—viewed culture and tradition as intrinsic to each other. Analysts rarely parsed this linkage and produced anthropological accounts that demonstrated that peasants and modern political practices were antithetical to each other. Banﬁeld’s (1967) study of a southern Italian village that ascribed its political backwardness to deeply rooted traditions is a classic in this genre. Customs and superstitions that had plagued them for hundreds of years trapped Banﬁeld’s Italian peasants in a premodern and unchanging landscape of political practices. Wylie’s Village in the Vaucluse, (1974) a kinder study in a similar vein portrayed French peasants whiling away their time at boules and drinking at local cafes while high politics was conducted in a distant Parisian capital.
The assumptions that undergrid Eurocentrism and traditionalism rendered culture so transparent as to make it invisible. Moreover, these assumptions were fundamentally conservative. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, social history engaged the attention of ﬁrst historians and later sociologists—usually inﬂuenced by Marxism (see the introductory summary in Bonnell and Hunt 1999). At ﬁrst, the politically engaged scholars who emerged in the 1970s viewed culture as suspect—a position that changed as the decade progressed. In the new historical anthropology of Europe, peasants were subversive (Ginzberg 1980); religious events were riotous (Davis 1975); oppressed apprentices murdered cats to get control of their work situation (Darnton 1985); and communist comrades could also be Christian (Kertzer 1980).
The combination of cultural conservativism and Socialist politics were not the only entities that contributed to the lack of attention to culture as an analytic frame. Social scientists working in the positivist mode favored in the 1950s and 1960s considered culture as too imprecise a concept to operationalize. As a variable, culture appeared to lack explanatory power. Where culture was taken into account we have the classic studies of Almond and Verba (1989), who measured political culture in sharply deﬁned variables all pointing to the fact that the more Protestant a group was, the more democratic they were likely to be (for summaries, see Berezin 1994, 1997b).
2. Analysis Follows History: The ‘Cultural Turn’ In European Studies
No matter what ideological position one espouses or analytic method one favors, content always deﬁnes culture, whereas trajectory deﬁnes history. By 1990, social history became the ‘new cultural history’ (Hunt 1989). Europe was in many instances the site of the emerging ‘cultural turn’ (Bonnell and Hunt 1999). Speciﬁc historical changes in the last quarter of the twentieth century contributed to the new salience of culture in analyses of European society.
Political scientists and historians frequently refer to the period between roughly 1950 and 1970 as the period of the ‘post-war settlement.’ That period was characterized on the political front by the consensus supported by the US of the containment of communism and on the economic front by the corporatist bargain that kept labor and business in accord. The European welfare state contained class conﬂict while valorizing class politics. European parties represented genuine ideological diﬀerences. A spirit of prosperity prevailed.
This bargained equilibrium with its cultural and ideological concomitants began to break down in the 1970s. The student revolts of the late 1960s and the period of terrorism, ‘iron years’ as the Italians labeled them, pointed to an emerging ‘end of ideology’ politics (Lumley 1990). By the 1980s, social science followed history. New Social Movements (NSMs) emerged that prioritized values over interests (i.e., peace, environment) and identity politics (i.e., gender, ethnicity) superceded class politics as traditional European parties began to fractionate (Cohen 1985).
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in 1989 coupled with the commitment to European union signaled the end of the ‘old’ Europe. In academia, Eurocentrism gave way to multiculturalism (Joppke and Lukes 1999), nationalism to postnationalism. Postmodernity replaced modernity and the Enlightenment, the cornerstone of Eurocentricism, came into question (Wagner 1994). Inglehardt (1977) following in the research style of Almond and Verba, documented ‘postmaterialist’ values. Social scientists turned to culture in an attempt to make sense of a society and politics that traditional modes of analysis could neither explain nor comprehend.
Transformation was not merely cultural and conceptual. Political and economic shifts fueled the retreat to identity and post-materialism. The 1970s and economic recession in Europe was the death knell of class collaboration. In the wake of European recessions, socialist technocratic parties emerged as well as out and out conservative parties such as Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberalism. Traditional left and right parties began to lose their constituencies. Kertzer’s (1996) analysis of the re-reorganization of the Italian Communist Party underscores the schizophrenia of changing European values. Formerly the strongest Communist Party in Western Europe, the party needed an infusion of new ideas in the early 1990s. But it could not decide upon its new name or the design of its ﬂag. The Italian Communist Party ﬁnally agreed to change its name to the Democratic Party of the Left. Its ﬂag incorporated ‘postmaterialist’ values by superimposing an environmentally correct tree over its traditional hammer and sickle—thus wedding green to red, new to old.
3. Analytic Transformation
Social and political change brought culture out of the shadows and into the full light of social scientiﬁc analysis. Identiﬁable analytic shifts occurred between 1980 and 2000. Among the multiple possibilities for categorizing these trends, this entry identiﬁes four as salient: ﬁrst, the move from class to identity; second, the move from connoisseurship to material culture; third, the new focus on culture and institutions; and lastly, an emerging interest in democracy, civil society and political culture. These shifts, presented here as discrete categories of analysis, in practice often shade into each other.
3.1 Class To Identity
Class was the initial venue that wed culture to political mobilization and social closure. Inﬂuenced by the early, more culturalist and consciousness-based writing of Karl Marx, scholars tried to understand why and how working class culture became a vehicle of class based political action. The seminal study in this vein was E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963). Inﬂuenced by this work, other social historians began to focus on class cultures. Stedman-Jones (1983) focused on British languages of class; Sewell (1980) examined how a corporate idiom shaped the political culture of French artisans; and Calhoun (1982) argued that established traditions forged solidaristic social ties within local communities that generated class cohesion among eighteenth-century British workers. Hebdige (1979) showed how British youth culture was a form of class identity and social rebellion.
Bourdieu (1984) redirected the focus of class studies from Karl Marx to Max Weber by incorporating the idea of status. His insight that capital could be cultural and social as well as purely economic launched a genre of studies on social boundary making. Bourdieu (1977) argued that habitus shaped the perceptions of a group to include and exclude based on cultural and social cues. Lamont (1992) built on this work by studying middle class, and later working class, men in the United States and in France to test empirically how boundaries and the conception of ‘one of us’ were formed.
Sexuality, gender, race and nationality have become the basis of identity studies on Europe. Foucault’s (1990) three-volume work on the history of sexuality that questioned the entire concept paved the way for studies of the body (Laqueur 1990). Hunt’s (1992) monograph on the ‘family romance’ of the French Revolution linked Freudian analysis of sexuality to issues of gender and politics. Borneman’s (1992) study of kinship in the former East and West Berlin linked issues of gender and national identity. Soysal’s (1994) discussion of post-nationalism argued that citizenship, a category of nationality, is a malleable identity category that transcends the materiality of space.
With the exception of British media studies, the European ideology of connoisseurship relegated studies of art, music, ﬁlm, architecture, and literature to the relevant humanities disciplines. Since the mid-1980s, social scientists have reinvented art as material culture and produced a broad range of studies. For example, Griswold (1986) studied Renaissance revivals on the British stage. Biernacki (1995) studied the cultural signiﬁcance of divergent factory regimes among woolen workers in Britain and Germany. Politics and cultural production is an emerging area of interest. Mukerji (1997) wrote on the relation between formal gardens and French state building.
Consumption as an economic process that intersects with cultural production has informed a whole genre of studies of Americanization and globalization in European studies. DeGrazia (1989) studied how American ﬁlm culture deﬁned and penetrated European ﬁlms in the 1920s and 1930s. French gastronomy (Ferguson 1998) and furniture design (Auslander 1996) were intimately connected to issues of class autonomy and national identity and citizenship. Consumption is now global and studies document the invasion of foreign capital and cultural products on European soil. McDonalds and the culture of fast food are a frequent target. A recent special edition of Le Monde Diplomatique entitled ‘L’Amerique dans les Tetes’ (‘America in the Head’) provides an example of the concern with the Americanization globalization of European culture.
3.2 Institutional Studies Of Culture
Institutional studies of culture that focus upon how the state mobilizes cultural and political institutions, such as schools, the military, language consolidation, nationality codes, as well as symbolic entities such as art, music, and architecture to create identities has arguably the longest trajectory in European cultural studies. Weber’s (1976) Peasants Into Frenchman is an early work in this genre that provides a history of how the French state mobilized local cultural institutions to create a state centered French national culture. Mosse (1991) looked at the phenomenon of what he termed the ‘nationalization of the masses’ to document how territories that had become nation states became bounded cultural political spaces in the early twentieth century. In 1983, Hobsbawm’s and Ranger’s inﬂuential anthology Inventing Traditions emphasized the fact that all national cultures were the products of carefully designed state rituals and symbolic practices—beginning with the British monarchy.
The intersection of state institutions and cultural practices dominated European political cultural studies from the mid-1980s to the present (Steinmetz 1999). In the wake of Ozouf’s (1988) inﬂuential book on rituals and the French Revolution, Hunt (1984) explored the link between the ‘poetics of power’ and the ‘sociology of politics’ to describe the ‘unexpected invention of [French] revolutionary politics’ (p. 3). Scholars followed Hunt’s lead—turning to, for example, Nazi Germany (Fritzsche 1998) and fascist Italy (Berezin 1997a). Scholars who focus on membership issues in nation states demonstrated how states institutionalized political culture in diverse approaches to citizenship law (Brubaker 1992). In a series of articles, Laitin (1989) and Laitin and Sole (1994) argued that language consolidation in European nation states was analogous to a tipping game where it was rational to learn a national language if one wished to participate in consolidated national language markets.
3.3 Democracy, Civil Society And Political Culture
The studies of democracy and culture, a relatively new preoccupation, divide into two groups: ﬁrst, scholars inﬂuenced by Jurgen Habermas’ theories of the public sphere and those inﬂuenced by the theory of social capital. Habermas’ The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1989) posited that the origins of democratic civil society lay in the exchange of information and ideas in public space from eighteenth-century coﬀee houses to modern newspapers. Multiple groups of citizens could meet and discuss and arrive at democratic consensus.
This new version of political culture was heavily dependent on the valorization of public discourse and was particularly appealing to social scientists contemplating the reconstruction of civil society in the former Eastern Europe. In an inﬂuential article that rethought T. H. Marshall’s (1964) conception of citizenship, Somers (1993) argues that citizenship rights rather than attributes of individuals are deeply embedded in a set of institutional practices that are highly dependent upon the permeability of local public spheres. In contrast to much of the theoretical literature that Habermas’ notion of the public sphere has generated, Zaret (2000) provides the ﬁrst extended empirical study that examines the modes of communication available to a public in early modern England.
Putnam’s Making Democracy Work (1992) building on Alexis de Tocqueville’s theory of democratic association introduced social capital to studies of political culture. Putnam studied the success of the Italian regional governments in Italy over a 20-year period. He attributed the more eﬃcient governments found in the north, in contrast to the south, to a political culture of association that produced a high level of trust and cooperation among participants in governments. He terms this talent for government ‘social capital’—meaning that a citizenry that participated in multiple networks of associations developed an elevated capacity for acting democratically. To date, Putnam’s work has generated volumes of research on American democracy, but little empirical work on Europe itself. This will likely change as the results of trans-European collaborative studies on social capital become available.
4. New Turns
The analytic trends that I have outlined are in progress and will continue to occupy researchers for years to come. They raise questions for which the answers are decidedly not in yet. But what is new on the horizon? In addition to the areas I have outlined, four additional themes are just beginning to occupy scholars. First, European identity will begin to supersede national identities as a focus of research. In part, this will emerge as a response to the European Commission’s push to create not only a European market but also a European space (Kastoryano 1998). Some of these attempts, as the search for a common European history that does not focus on war, will be strained. But the temporal eﬀects of transborder life will no doubt contribute to the formation of a European consciousness. The second area of interest will no doubt be the new technologies of communication, particularly the internet. At the time of writing, all political parties in Europe have websites. The ramiﬁcations and eﬃcacy of a virtual public sphere is a whole terrain that has not been explored and will no doubt take oﬀ as the internet had done. A third emerging area is the ﬁeld of Europe/America comparisons. This is relatively novel, as in the past America was viewed as ‘exceptional.’ As Europe becomes more consumer oriented, and as it continues to deal with the in-corporation of immigrant groups, America becomes a more likely comparative venue than it has been in the past.
The last area is the paradoxically growing importance of ‘memory’ studies (Nora 1996–8). The European absorption with its past, particularly the period of Nazism, genocide, fascism and collaboration, has taken on a surprising urgency as the continent struggles to shape a vision of and program for its future. The tendency began in 1985 in Germany with the public controversy known as the historians’ conﬂict (Historikerstreit) (Baldwin 1990). The concern with memory has continued as scholars attempt to come to terms with Vichy France (Rousso 1991) and Nazi Germany (Maier 1988). An oﬀshoot of the obsession with the past has been the emergence of a ﬁeld of ‘compensation’ studies that examines whether nation states can come to terms with the horrors of state sponsored genocide in monetary terms.
In short, to write about Europe in the year 2001, is to write about a continent in the midst of vast political, social, and technological transformation. Underneath this truism, lies the observation that cultural studies thrive in times of upheaval and uncertainty. The last 20 years of European studies suggest that political and social problems that standard notions of modernity and rationality cannot explain forces culture to the forefront of everyone’s research agenda. There are no signs that this trend is likely to reverse itself at any time in the near future.
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