Democratic renewal and cultural inertia: Why our best efforts fall short

Robert Wuthnow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Sociological research is often inspired by a desire to ameliorate social problems. Yet sparse attention is devoted to the broader reasons why social problems persist. Popular interpretations ultimately prove unsatisfactory because they focus on such culprits as human nature, poor government policies, incompetence, or opponents of reform. I propose that sociologists need to take culture more seriously than they often do. Culture is not simply a set of scripts that permit us to accomplish whatever we want. It also consists of foundational narratives about ourselves and our society that generally go unquestioned. Recognizing the power of these deep narratives is the first step toward studying culture in a way that also facilitates democratic renewal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-367
Number of pages25
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Civil society
  • Culture
  • Democracy
  • Narratives
  • Social problems


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