Skip to main content Accessibility help

Rethinking Culture: The Social Lineage Account

  • ALAN PATTEN (a1)

Persuaded by the critique of cultural essentialism, many critics believe that there is no defensible way of identifying distinct cultures, or of distinguishing cultural loss from cultural change, that is compatible with the normative agenda of multiculturalism. This article challenges this widely shared belief by developing a concept of culture that can withstand the critique of essentialism and support the positive claims of multiculturalists. Culture, in the view developed here, is what people share when they have shared subjection to a common formative context. A division of the world, or of particular societies, into distinct cultures is a recognition that distinct processes of socialization operate on different groups of people. Because culture in this view is the precipitate of a common social lineage, the view is called the “social lineage account” of culture.

Corresponding author
Alan Patten is Professor of Politics, Princeton University, Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 (
Hide All
Anderson, Benedict. 1983. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso.
Appiah, K. Anthony. 1996. “Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections.” In Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race, eds. Appiah, K. Anthony and Gutmann, Amy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 30105.
Appiah, K. Anthony. 2005. The Ethics of Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Barry, Brian. 2001. Culture and Equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Barry, Brian. 2002. “Second Thoughts—And Some First Thoughts Revived.” In Multiculturalism Reconsidered, ed. Kelly, Paul. Cambridge: Polity, 204–38.
Benhabib, Seyla. 2002. The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Carens, Joseph. 2000. Culture, Citizenship, and Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Clifford, James. 1988. “Identity in Mashpee.” In The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 277346.
Davidson, Donald. [1986] 2006. “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs” In The Essential Davidson, eds. Ludwig, Kirk and Lepore, Ernest. New York: Oxford University Press, 251–65.
Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Gellner, Ernest. 1983. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Hardimon, Michael O. 2003. “The Ordinary Concept of Race.” Journal of Philosophy 100 (9): 437–55.
Kitcher, Philip. 1999. “Race, Ethnicity, Biology, Culture.” In Racism, ed. Harris, Leonard. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.
Kitcher, Philip. 2007. “Does ‘Race’ Have a Future?Philosophy and Public Affairs 35 (4): 293317.
Kluckhohn, Clyde. 1950. Mirror for Man. London: George G. Harrap.
Kuper, Adam. 1999. Culture: The Anthropologists' Account. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Kymlicka, Will. 1989. Liberalism, Community, and Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kymlicka, Will. 1995. Multicultural Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kymlicka, Will. 2001. Politics in the Vernacular. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Laitin, David. 2007. Nations, States, and Violence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mallon, Ron. 2007. “Human Categories beyond Non-essentialism.” Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2): 146–48.
Mason, Andrew. 2007. “Multiculturalism and the Critique of Essentialism.” In Multiculturalism and Political Theory, eds. Laden, Anthony Simon and Owen, David. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 221–43.
Mayr, Ernst. 1942. Systematics and the Origins of Species: From the Viewpoint of a Zoologist. New York: Columbia University Press.
Okin, Susan Moller. 1999. Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Parfit, Derek. 1984. Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Phillips, Anne. 2007. Multiculturalism without Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Popper, Karl. 1976. The Myth of the Framework. New York: Routledge.
Raz, Joseph. 1994. “Multiculturalism: A Liberal Perspective.” In Ethics in the Public Domain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 170–91.
Scheffler, Samuel. 2007. “Immigration and the Significance of Culture.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 35 (2): 93125.
Sniderman, Paul, and Hagendoorn, Louk. 2007. When Ways of Life Collide. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Sober, Elliott. 2000. Philosophy of Biology. 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Song, Sarah. 2007. Justice, Gender, and the Politics of Multiculturalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, Charles. 1992. “The Politics of Recognition.” In Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition,” ed. Gutmann, A.. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2573.
Terborgh, John. 2002 “Vanishing Points.” New York Review of Books, December 19.
Terborgh, John. 2003. “Reply.” New York Review of Books, April 10.
Tully, James. 1995. Strange Multiplicity: Constitutionalism in an Age of Diversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Waldron, Jeremy. 1992. “Minority Cultures and the Cosmopolitan Alternative.” University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 25: 751–94.
Waldron, Jeremy. 2004. “Tribalism and the Myth of the Framework: Some Popperian Thoughts on the Politics of Cultural Recognition.” In Karl Popper: Critical Appraisals, eds. Catton, Philip and Macdonald, Graham. New York: Routledge, 203–30.
Weber, Eugen. 1976. Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Wedeen, Lisa. 2002. “Conceptualizing Culture: Possibilities for Political Science.” American Political Science Review 96 (4): 713–28.
Yu, Douglas W., and Shepard, Glenn Jr. 2003. “Vanishing Cultures.” New York Review of Books, April 10.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed