Political culture in water governance – A theoretical framework

Nadine Reis
El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Urbanos y Ambientales (CEDUA), Mexico City; nreis@colmex.mx

ABSTRACT: This paper aims to contribute to a Cultural Political Economy (CPE) of water governance by focusing on the role of political culture in water governance. It develops a conceptual understanding of political culture and a theoretical framework for using political culture as a concept in a CPE of water governance. Three theoretical building blocks are used. First, I use Bob Jessopʼs elaborations on a relational understanding of state power, which emphasises the critical role of processes of legitimacy creation for any hegemonic state project. Second, Margaret Archerʼs understanding of culture as 'cultural system' is used in order to conceptualise the notion of 'culture' from a critical realist perspective. By understanding 'culture' as an equivalent to the concept of 'structure', it becomes possible to evade an empiricist or statist concept of culture. Political cultures can then be defined as systems of meaning comprising propositions about political legitimacy. Third, I draw on Gabriel A. Almondʼs and Sidney Verbaʼs ideas on political culture, and present three dimensions of political culture that are relevant in the analysis of water governance: system culture, process culture and policy culture. The concepts are illustrated with case study material from Vietnam and with other cases from the literature.

KEYWORDS: Cultural Political Economy, political culture, state power, state legitimacy, water governance