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Culture change

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Title: Culture change  
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Subject: Culture, Sociology of culture, Outline of culture, Oxford Leadership Academy, Policy
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Culture change

Culture change is a term used in public policy making that emphasises the influence of cultural capital on individual and community behavior. It places stress on the social and cultural capital determinants of decision making and the manner in which these interact with other factors like the availability of information or the financial incentives facing individuals to drive behavior.

These cultural capital influences include the role of parenting, families and close associates; organisations such as schools and workplaces; communities and neighbourhoods; and wider social influences such as the media. It is argued that this cultural capital manifests into specific values, attitudes or social norms which in turn guide the behavioural intentions that individuals adopt in regard to particular decisions or courses of action. These behavioural intentions interact with other factors driving behaviour such as financial incentives, regulation and legislation, or levels of information, to drive actual behaviour and ultimately feed back into underlying cultural capital.

In general, cultural stereotypes present great resistance to change and to their own redefinition. Culture, often appears fixed to the observer at any one point in time because cultural mutations occur incrementally.[1] the cultural change is a long-lasting process. Policymakers need to make a great effort to improve some basics aspects of a society’s cultural traits. However, the improvement of economic and political institutions may help this procedure.[2]

The term is used by Knott et al. of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit in the publication: Achieving Culture Change: A Policy Framework[1] (Knott et al., 2008). The paper sets out how public policy can achieve social and cultural change through 'downstream' interventions including fiscal incentives, legislation, regulation and information provision and also 'upstream' interventions such as parenting, peer and mentoring programmes, or development of social and community networks.

The key concepts the paper is based on include:

  • Cultural capital - such as the attitudes, values, aspirations and sense of self-efficacy which influence behaviour. Cultural capital is itself influenced by behaviour over time
  • The shifting social zeitgeist - whereby social norms and values that predominate within the cultural capital in society evolve in over time
  • The process by which political narrative and new ideas and innovations shift the social zeitgeist over time within the constraint of the 'elastic band' of public opinion
  • The process of behavioural normalisation - whereby behaviour and actions pass through into social and cultural norms (for example, Knott et al. argue that the UK experience of seat belt enforcement established and reinforced this as a social norm)
  • The importance of tailoring policy programmes around an ecological model of human behaviour to account for how policy will interact with cultural capital and affect it over time

Knott et al. use examples from a range of policy areas to demonstrate how the culture change framework can be applied to policymaking. For example:

  • To encourage educational aspiration they recommend more use of early years and parenting interventions, an improved childhood offer, and development of positive narratives on education as well as integrated advisory systems, financial assistance and targeted social marketing approaches.
  • To promote healthy living and personal responsibility they recommend building healthy living into community infrastructure, building partnerships with schools and employers, more one-to-one support for wellbeing alongside use of regulation and legislation on unhealthy products, provision of robust health information and health marketing to promote adaptive forms of behaviour.
  • To develop environmentally sustainable norms they recommend reinforcing sustainability throughout policy narratives, using schools and the voluntary sector to promote environmental messages, development of infrastructure that make sustainable choices easy, together with a wider package of measures on fiscal incentives, regulation, advisory services and coalition movements.
Model of culture change


  • See also 1
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

See also


  1. ^ P.E. Petrakis, P.C. Kostis (2013) “ Economic Growth and Cultural Change”, Journal of Socio-Economics, Issue C, Vol. 47, pp. 147-157, DOI 10.1016/j.socec.2013.02.011.
  2. ^ P. Petrakis, D. Valsamis (2013) “Entrepreneurship, Transaction Costs and Cultural Background”, International Business Research, Vol. 6, No. 5.


  • Knott, David; Muers, Stephen; Aldridge, Stephen (2008). [2]
  • GSR Behaviour Change Knowledge Review (2008). Reference Report: An overview of behaviour change models and their uses

External links

  • Baconbutty on Culture Change[3]
  • Cut crime with drink tax, Gordon Brown told, Daily Telegraph[4]
  • The naughty nation, New Statesman[5]
  • Winning Hearts and Minds[6]
  • Transformer une culture : un cadre d’action pour les politiques publiques[7] (in French)
  • Leading Teams on Culture Change[8]
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