Understanding politics in nations other than your own is a perilous exercise. If you were to read two newspaper articles on the same topic but from different countries, you would likely find two very different interpretations of the same event. But how we think about what is written in our own country seems somehow less distorted, less wrong. So which side is right? And from what reference point can we begin to compare the two?
Culture Troubles is a systematic reevaluation of the role of culture in political analysis. Here, Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz contend that it is unwise to compare different societies without taking into account culture, which in their interpretation is not a system of values, but rather a system of inherited meanings and symbols. This cultural approach, they argue, can attribute meaning to political comparison, and they outline the shape of that approach, one that draws from an eclectic range of sources. Illustrating the sharpness and acuity of their methods, they proceed with a comparative study of the state and political representation in three very different nations—France, Nigeria, and Sweden—to untangle the many ways that culture informs our understanding of political events. As a result, Culture Troubles offers a rational starting point from which we may begin to understand foreign politics.