April 15, 1999
Vol. 18 No. 14

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    Clark's latest book on new political culture applies to city's politics

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The recent reelection of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley demonstrates the value of a new political approach identified by Terry Nichols Clark, Professor in Sociology, in his recent book The New Political Culture.

    “The reelection of Mayor Daley has shown how much things have changed since the time of his father Richard J. Daley,” Clark said. “There has been a rise of groups independent of the Democratic party, such as neighborhood interest groups. As a result, the individual citizen has become more important–– not as a cog in the political machine––but the target for services that need to be delivered. Mayor Daley has seized on this, and reforms in the Park District, for example, show major changes.”

    Clark said Mayor Daley also has realized the growing importance of consumption issues, such as lifestyle amenities and the Lakefront and leisure, over production issues, such as the workplace, jobs and economic growth.

    While many of these changes were initiated by Daley’s predecessors, he built on the ideas that worked best––Jane Byrne brought ChicagoFest to the city, and Harold Washington gave the city administration a multicultural focus.

    “The language of Daley’s campaign spoke of the city as a whole rather than conflicts among neighborhoods and ethnic groups,” Clark said.

    Democracies around the world are being swept by this new form of politics guided more by issues than by traditional distinctions between liberal and conservative positions, contends Clark.

    The new orientation has led to election victories for U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, said Clark. Each of the men came from traditionally leftist parties but gained victory by adopting less ideologically rigid positions than their parties had previously held.

    Clark identifies common characteristics of the new political culture:

    ––The classic left-right dimension is transformed as the left becomes increasingly identified with social issues and less often with traditional class-politics issues.

    ––Social and fiscal/economic issues are explicitly distinguished.

    ––Social issues rise in importance relative to fiscal/economic issues.

    ––Market individualism and social individualism are growing.

    ––The welfare state is being questioned.

    ––Issue politics and broader citizen participation are increasing while the power of hierarchical political organizations is declining.

    ––Younger, more educated and affluent individuals and societies are more likely to exhibit the new political culture.

    In The New Political Culture, Clark and his colleagues analyze global urban data concerning political changes in advanced democracies. The book is based on data gathered by the Fiscal Austerity and Urban Innovation Project, the most extensive study of local government in the world to date.

    The $15 million Fiscal Austerity and Urban Innovation Project, for which Clark is coordinator, collects data on local officials in approximately 1,000 U.S. municipalities with a population greater than 25,000. In some 38 other countries, studies are in progress, and data from those studies were used for the book.