Organization of the Encyclopedia
American Political Culture: An Encyclopedia is arranged alphabetically by entry to
facilitate the easy lookup of topics of interest. We have taken care to begin each entry
title with the most substantive word so as to reflect that topical interest; thus, there
are entries covering “Foreign Policy and Politics,” “Information Leaks and Politics,”
“Partisanship and Polarization,” “Campaign Finance,” and so on. Where necessary,
we have provided stand-alone cross-references to help steer users to the appropriate
entries. Thus, there is a cross-reference at “Conventions” to direct users to the entry
“Nominating Conventions.”
The three volumes of the encyclopedia contain nearly 200 entries, averaging about
3,500 words in length (though a few run less than that and several run considerably lon-
ger). Each entry begins with a description or definition of the topic at hand and proceeds
to examine the subject’s cultural, historical, and political context. The encyclopedia fo-
cuses particularly on the last 30 to 40 years of U.S. history, a period when cultural politics
and the question of national identity have become especially important. Earlier periods
are, of course, noted to the extent that they inform contemporary discussions of a topic.
While all of the entries draw on scholarly research, they have been written so that
a reasonably diligent upper-level high school student, college undergraduate, or gen-
erally informed layperson can follow the discussion and findings. As much as pos-
sible, specialized terms are used only selectively and are defined in text as necessary.
Subheadings help break down the topics into more easily understandable parts. An
additional feature, employed in many entries, is the use of sidebars, or text boxes, to
cover topics of interest related to the main topic of an entry but not necessarily integral
to it. Most entries end with a concluding statement, and all provide a listing of related
entries and a bibliography of useful print and electronic information resources. Also
provided, at the front of the encyclopedia, is a Guide to Related Topics that groups
entries under related themes and topics, and a basic Introduction that places the con-
cept of “political culture” into historical context. At the end of the encyclopedia is a
General Bibliography along with a detailed subject index.
The contributors, identified in each entry and listed at the back of the book, come
from a wide range of disciplines and include political scientists, public policy specialists,
communications and media professionals, sociologists, legal and constitutional scholars,
historians, American studies specialists, and political economists. It is hoped that the
work published here will inspire conversations among students and teachers as well as
researchers and members of the general public. Readers will find thoughtful introduc-
tions to some of the most pressing and enduring issues confronting American society.
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