Contemporary articles citing Sewell W (1992) Am J Sociol
cultural, understanding, concept, culture, empirical, approach, studies, action, political, change
- Go, Julian. 2013. "Decolonizing Bourdieu: Colonial and Postcolonial Theory in Pierre Bourdieu's Early Work." Sociological Theory. 31:1 49-74.
- While new scholarship on Pierre Bourdieu has recovered his early work on Algeria, this essay excavates his early thoughts on colonialism. Contrary to received wisdom, Bourdieu did in fact offer a theory of colonialism and a systematic understanding of its effects and logics. Bourdieu portrayed colonialism as a racialized system of domination, backed by force, which restructures social relations and creates hybrid cultures. His theory entailed insights on the limits and promises of colonial reform, anticolonial revolution, and postcolonial liberation. Bourdieu's early thinking on colonialism drew upon but extended French colonial studies of the time. It also contains the seeds of later concepts like habitus, field, and reflexive sociology while prefiguring more recent disciplinary postcolonial studies. Bourdieusian sociology in this sense originates not just as a study of Algeria but more specifically a critique of colonialism. It can be seen as contributing to the larger project of postcolonial sociology.
- Lizardo, Omar & Sara Skiles. 2012. "Reconceptualizing and Theorizing ``omnivorousness'': Genetic and Relational Mechanisms." Sociological Theory. 30:4 263-282.
- Scores of sociological studies have provided evidence for the association between broad cultural taste, or omnivorousness, and various status characteristics, such as education, occupation, and age. Nevertheless, the literature lacks a consistent theoretical foundation with which to understand and organize these empirical findings. In this article, we offer such a framework, suggesting that a mechanism-based approach is helpful for examination of the origins of the omnivore-univore taste pattern as well as its class-based distribution. We reground the discussion of this phenomenon in Distinction (Bourdieu 1984), conceptualizing omnivorous taste as a transposable form of the aesthetic disposition available most readily to individuals who convert early aesthetic training into high cultural capital occupational trajectories. After outlining the genetic mechanisms that link the aesthetic disposition to early socialization trajectories, we identify two relational mechanisms that modulate its manifestation (either enhancing or inhibiting it) after early socialization.
- Xu, Bin. 2012. "Grandpa Wen: Scene and Political Performance." Sociological Theory. 30:2 114-129.
- This article remedies the divide in the theory of cultural performance between contingent strategy and cultural structure by bringing scene back in. Scene fuses components of performance and links local performance to macrolevel cultural structures and historical events. I theorize two conceptual elements: scene-act ratio and event-scene link. A scene creates an emotive context that demands consistent and timely performance; features of macrolevel events shape the emotive context of the scene. The two concepts can be deployed to explain variation in performance effectiveness. The theory is illustrated in a comparative study of Chinese leaders' empathetic performance in disasters.
- Lichterman, Paul. 2012. "Religion in Public Action: From Actors to Settings." Sociological Theory. 30:1 15-36.
- Contemporary social research often has located religion's public influence by focusing on individual or collective religious actors. In this unitary actor model, religion is a stable, uniform feature of an individual or collectivity. However, recent research shows that people's religious expression outside religious congregations varies by context. Building on this new work, along with insights from Erving Goffman and cultural sociology, an alternative, ``cultural-interactionist model'' of religious expression focuses on how group styles enable and constrain religious expression in public settings. Illustrating the model are two ethnographic cases, a religiously sponsored homeless advocacy organization and a secondary comparison setting from an activist campaign for housing, both from a U.S. metropolitan area. Shifting from actors to settings and group styles clarifies the interplay between religious and nonreligious culture over time. The shift refines our understanding of how religion's civic or political effects work, as in the case of building social capital for collective action. The cultural-interactionist model enables us to track historical change in everyday group settings. It promotes further research on historically changing ways of managing religious diversity, and diverse ways of constructing a religious self.
- Tavory, Iddo. 2011. "The Question of Moral Action: a Formalist Position*." Sociological Theory. 29:4 272-293.
- This article develops a research position that allows cultural sociologists to compare morality across sociohistorical cases. In order to do so, the article suggests focusing analytic attention on actions that fulfill the following criteria: (a) actions that define the actor as a certain kind of socially recognized person, both within and across fields; (b) actions that actors experienceor that they expect others to perceiveas defining the actor both intersituationally and to a greater extent than other available definitions of self; and (c) actions to which actors either have themselves, or expect others to have, a predictable emotional reaction. Such a position avoids both a realist moral sociology and descriptive-relativism, and provides sociologists with criteria for comparing moral action in different cases while staying attuned to social and historical specificity.
- Jansen, Robert. 2011. "Populist Mobilization: a New Theoretical Approach to Populism." Sociological Theory. 29:2 75-96.
- Sociology has long shied away from the problem of populism. This may be due to suspicion about the concept or uncertainty about how to fit populist cases into broader comparative matrices. Such caution is warranted: the existing interdisciplinary literature has been plagued by conceptual confusion and disagreement. But given the recent resurgence of populist politics in Latin America and elsewhere, sociology can no longer afford to sidestep such analytical challenges. This article moves toward a political sociology of populism by identifying past theoretical deficiencies and proposing a new, practice-based approach that is not beholden to pejorative common sense understandings. This approach conceptualizes populism as a mode of political practice-as populist mobilization. Its utility is demonstrated through an application to mid-twentieth-century Latin American politics. The article concludes by sketching an agenda for future research on populist mobilization in Latin America and beyond.
- Fine, Gary. 2010. "The Sociology of the Local: Action and Its Publics." Sociological Theory. 28:4 355-376.
- Sociology requires a robust theory of how local circumstances create social order. When we analyze social structures not recognizing that they depend on groups with collective pasts and futures that are spatially situated and that are based on personal relations, we avoid a core sociological dimension: the importance of local context in constituting social worlds. Too often this has been the sociological stance, both in micro-sociological studies that examine interaction as untethered from local traditions and in research that treats culture as autonomous from action and choice. Building on theories of action, group dynamics, and micro-cultures, I argue that a sociology of the local solves critical theoretical problems. The local is a stage on which social order gets produced and a lens for understanding how particular forms of action are selected. Treating ethnographic studies as readings of ongoing cultures, I examine how the continuing and referential features of group life (spatial arenas, relations, shared pasts) generate action and argue that local practices provide the basis for cultural extension, influencing societal expectations through the linkages among groups.
- Ng, Kwai & Jeffrey Kidder. 2010. "Toward a Theory of Emotive Performance: With Lessons From How Politicians Do Anger." Sociological Theory. 28:2 193-214.
- This article treats the public display of emotion as social performance. The concept of ``emotive performance'' is developed to highlight the overlooked quality of performativity in the social use of emotion. We argue that emotive performance is reflexive, cultural, and communicative. As an active social act, emotive performance draws from the cultural repertoire of interpretative frameworks and dominant narratives. We illustrate the utility of the concept by analyzing two episodes of unrehearsed emotive performances by two well-known politicians, Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin. The two cases demonstrate how emotion can be analyzed as a domain in which culturally specific narratives and rhetorics are used to advance the situational agenda of actors. The concept opens up a more expansive research agenda for sociology. It pushes sociologists to pay greater attention to people's experiences, interpretations, and deployments of emotions in social life.
- Reay, Mike. 2010. "Knowledge Distribution, Embodiment, and Insulation." Sociological Theory. 28:1 91-107.
- This article looks at how parts of a social stock of knowledge can become insulated from each other via their uneven distribution both ``horizontally'' across time and space, and ``vertically'' with respect to degrees of embodiment in unconscious habits and routines. It uses ideas from Alfred Schutz, Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann, Michael Polanyi, and others to argue that this insulation can produce a highly dynamic structuring of knowledge, awareness of which has the potential to help explain the existence of ignorance, misperception, and multiple interpretations in different social settings. This potential is illustrated with examples taken from a study of American economists, showing how an approach considering insulation can improve understanding of at least one currently influential branch of knowledge. The article also suggests briefly how such an approach might augment recent theories of habitual action by accounting for both stability and change, and even help with some longstanding epistemological problems in social theory.
- Collet, Francois. 2009. "Does Habitus Matter?: a Comparative Review of Bourdieu's Habitus and Simon's Bounded Rationality With Some Implications for Economic Sociology." Sociological Theory. 27:4 419-434.
- In this article, I revisit Pierre Bourdieu's concept of habitus and contrast it with Herbert Simon's notion of bounded rationality. Through a discussion of the literature of economic sociology on status and Fligstein's political-cultural approach, I argue that this concept can be a source of fresh insights into empirical problems. I find that the greater the change in the social environment, the more salient the benefits of using habitus as a tool to analyze agents' behavior.
- Orloff, Ann. 2009. "Gendering the Comparative Analysis of Welfare States: an Unfinished Agenda." Sociological Theory. 27:3 317-343.
- Can feminists count on welfare states-or at least some aspects of these complex systems-as resources in the struggle for gender equality ? Gender analysts of ``welfare states'' investigate this question and the broader set of issues around the mutually constitutive relationship between systems of social provision and regulation and gender. Feminist scholars have moved to bring the contingent practice of politics back into grounded fields of action and social change and away from the reification and abstractions that had come to dominate models of politics focused on ``big'' structures and systems, including those focused on ``welfare states.'' Conceptual innovations and reconceptualizations of foundational terms have been especially prominent in the comparative scholarship on welfare states, starting with gender, and including care, autonomy, citizenship, (in)dependence, political agency, and equality. In contrast to other subfields of political science and sociology, gendered insights have to some extent been incorporated into mainstream comparative scholarship on welfare states. The arguments between feminists and mainstream scholars over the course of the last two decades have been productive, powering the development of key themes and concepts pioneered by gender scholars, including ``defamilialization,'' the significance of unpaid care work in families and the difficulties of work-family ``reconciliation,'' gendered welfare state institutions, the relation between fertility and women's employment, and the partisan correlates of different family and gender policy models. Yet the mainstream still resists the deeper implications of feminist work, and has difficulties assimilating concepts of care, gendered power, dependency, and interdependency. Thus, the agenda of gendering comparative welfare state studies remains unfinished. To develop an understanding of what might be needed to finish that agenda, I assess the gendered contributions to the analysis of modern systems of social provision, starting with the concept of gender itself, then moving to studies of the gendered division of labor (including care) and of gendered political power.
- Silber, Ilana. 2009. "Bourdieu's Gift to Gift Theory: an Unacknowledged Trajectory." Sociological Theory. 27:2 173-190.
- This article offers to unravel lines of both continuity and change in Bourdieu's repeated return to the topic of the gift throughout his intellectual career. While this periodical revisiting of the gift may seem at first like mere repetition, a closer reading reveals three successive and cumulative phases in his gift theory, each adding a new layer of analytical and normative inflections. Emerging from these three phases is a trajectory marked by systematic theoretical consolidation but also growing dilemmas and inner tensions, even to the point of self-contradiction: starting from a critical debunking of the disinterested gift as sincere but obfuscating fiction, it culminates with a positive, prescriptive valorization of disinterestedness as something which needs be cultivated in our very own times. Challenging his vision, as it were, ``from within,'' these inner tensions and developments amount to an intriguing, inverted case of Bourdieu's own idea of ``double truth,'' all the more significant since it pertains to a topic that he defined as playing a paradigmatic function in his general theoretical approach.
- Fuhse, Jan. 2009. "The Meaning Structure of Social Networks." Sociological Theory. 27:1 51-73.
- This essay proposes to view networks as sociocultural structures. Following authors from Leopold von Wiese and Norbert Elias to Gary Alan Fine and Harrison White, networks are configurations of social relationships interwoven with meaning. Social relationships as the basic building blocks of networks are conceived of as dynamic structures of reciprocal (but not necessarily symmetric) expectations between alter and ego. Through their transactions, alter and ego construct an idiosyncratic ``relationship culture'' comprising symbols, narratives, and relational identities. The coupling of social relationships to networks, too, is heavily laden with meaning. The symbolic construction of persons is one instance of this coupling. Another instance is the application of social categories (like race or gender), which both map and structure social networks. The conclusion offers an agenda for research on this ``meaning structure of social networks.''.
- Reed, Isaac. 2008. "Justifying Sociological Knowledge: From Realism to Interpretation." Sociological Theory. 26:2 101-129.
- In the context of calls for ``postpositivist'' sociology, realism has emerged as a powerful and compelling epistemology for social science. In transferring and transforming scientific realism-a philosophy of natural science-into a justificatory discourse for social science, realism splits into two parts: a strict, highly naturalistic realism and a reflexive, more mediated, and critical realism. Both forms of realism, however, suffer from conceptual ambiguities, omissions, and elisions that make them an inappropriate epistemology for social science. Examination of these problems in detail reveals how a different perspective-centered on the interpretation of meaning-could provide a better justification for social inquiry, and in particular a better understanding of sociological theory and the construction of sociological explanations.
- Moody, Michael. 2008. "Serial Reciprocity: a Preliminary Statement." Sociological Theory. 26:2 130-151.
- Serial reciprocity exists when people reciprocate for what they have received-for example, from a parent, a friend, a mentor, a stranger, a previous generation-by providing something to a third party, regardless of whether a return is also given to, or makes its way back to, the original giver. To understand serial reciprocity as reciprocity, this article delineates the general features of the serial type of reciprocity and outlines two general situations in which serial reciprocity provides a viable option-the only or the most appropriate option-for reciprocal return. It also argues for a more fundamental rethinking of reciprocity in general. A more cognitive and cultural perspective on reciprocity is proposed that focuses on the meaning of exchanges and treats reciprocity as a socially constructed element of a culturally available repertoire. This can better account for the existing serial type of reciprocity. The article concludes with suggestions for empirical research.
- Depelteau, Francois. 2008. "Relational Thinking: a Critique of Co-deterministic Theories of Structure and Agency." Sociological Theory. 26:1 51-73.
- This article presents a relational criticism of the ``morphogenetic theory'' of M. Archer. This theory is founded and representative of the most influential mode of perception of the social universe of the last few decades: co-determinism (structure <-> agency). Co-determinism's influence can be explained by its integration of modern general presuppositions like freedom, individualism, and the quest for a new social order. By identifying five basic principles of relational sociology, we see that Archer's co-deterministic theory offers a complicated solution to avoid voluntarism and co-determinism, limits the potential of sociological imagination, cannot adequately see the fluidity of social processes, produces a certain reification of social structures and agency, and is based on an inconsistent use of egocentric and relational perspectives. These problems can be avoided if we use a relational approach (actor <-> actor double right arrow structures) based on the study of complex and empirical trans-actions.
- Armstrong, Elizabeth & Mary Bernstein. 2008. "Culture, Power, and Institutions: a Multi-institutional Politics Approach to Social Movements." Sociological Theory. 26:1 74-99.
- We argue that critiques of political process theory are beginning to coalesce into a new approach to social movements-a ``multi-institutional politics'' approach. While the political process model assumes that domination is organized by and around one source of power, the alternative perspective views domination as organized around multiple sources of power, each of which is simultaneously material and symbolic. We examine the conceptions of social movements, politics, actors, goals, and strategies supported by each model, demonstrating that the view of society and power underlying the political process model is too narrow to encompass the diversity of contemporary change efforts. Through empirical examples, we demonstrate that the alternative approach provides powerful analytical tools for the analysis of a wide variety of contemporary change efforts.
- Hitlin, Steven & Glen Elder. 2007. "Time, Self, and the Curiously Abstract Concept of Agency." Sociological Theory. 25:2 170-191.
- The term ``agency'' is quite slippery and is used differently depending on the epistemological roots and goals of scholars who employ it. Distressingly, the sociological literature on the concept rarely addresses relevant social psychological research. We take a social behaviorist approach to agency by suggesting that individual temporal orientations are underutilized in conceptualizing this core sociological concept. Different temporal foci-the actor's engaged response to situational circumstances-implicate different forms of agency. This article offers a theoretical model involving four analytical types of agency (''existential,'' ``identity,''''pragmatic,'' and ``life course'') that are often conflated across treatments of the topic. Each mode of agency overlaps with established social psychological literatures, most notably about the self, enabling scholars to anchor overly abstract treatments of agency within established research literatures.
- Jacobs, Ronald & Sarah Sobieraj. 2007. "Narrative and Legitimacy: Us Congressional Debates About the Nonprofit Sector." Sociological Theory. 25:1 1-25.
- This article develops a theory about the narrative foundations of public policy. Politicians draw on specific types of narratives in order to connect the policies they are proposing, the needs of the public, and their own needs for legitimacy. In particular, politicians are drawn to policy narratives in which they themselves occupy the central and heroic character position, and where they are able to protect the scope of their jurisdictional authority. We demonstrate how this works through a historical analysis of congressional debate about the nonprofit sector in the United States. Two competing narratives framed these debates: (1) a selfless charity narrative, in which politicians try to empower heroic charity workers and philanthropists, and then stay out of the way; and (2) a masquerade narrative, in which fake charities are taking advantage of the nonprofit tax exemption, in order to pursue a variety of noncivic and dangerous activities. Members of Congress quickly adopted the masquerade narrative as the dominant framework for discussing the nonprofit sector because it provided a more powerful and flexible rhetoric for reproducing their political legitimacy. By developing innovative elaborations of the masquerade narrative (i.e., identifying new categories of ``false heroes''), while remaining faithful to its underlying narrative format, politicians were able to increase the persuasive impact of their legislative agendas. We argue that the narrative aspects of political debate are a central component of the policy-making process because they link cultural and political interests in a way that involves the mastery of cultural structure as well as the creativity of cultural performance.
- Gross, N. 2005. "The Detraditionalization of Intimacy Reconsidered." Sociological Theory. 23:3 286-311.
- This essay challenges those strains of cot? temporary social theory that regard romantic/sexual intimacy as a premier site of detraditionalization in the late modern era. Striking changes have occurred in intimacy and family life over the last half-century, but the notion of detraditionalization as currently formulated does not capture them very well. With the goal of achieving a more refined understanding, the article proposes a distinction between ``regulative'' and ``ineaning-constitutive'' traditions. The former involve threats of exclusion from various moral communities; the latter involve linguistic and cultural frameworks within which sense is made of the world. Focusing on the U.S. case and marshaling various kinds of empirical evidence, the article argues that while the regulative tradition of what it terms lifelong, internally stratified marriage has declined in strength in recent years, the image of the form of couplehood inscribed in this regulative tradition continues to function as a hegemonic ideal in many American intimate relationships. Intimacy in the United States also remains beholden to the tradition of romantic love. That these meaning-constitutive traditions continue to play a central role in structuring contemporary intimacy suggests that detraditionalization involves the relative decline only of certain regulative traditions, a point that calls into question some of the normative assessments that often accompany the detraditionalization thesis.
- Alexander, JC. 2004. "Cultural Pragmatics: Social Performance Between Ritual and Strategy." Sociological Theory. 22:4 527-573.
- Front its very beginnings, the social study of culture has been polarized between structuralist theories that treat meaning as a text and investigate the patterning that provides relative autonomy and pragmatist theories that treat meaning as emerging from the contingencies of individual and collective action-so-called practices-and that analyze cultural patterns as reflections of power and material interest. In this article, I present a theory of cultural pragmatics that transcends this division, bringing meaning structures, contingency, power, and materiality together in a new way. My argument is that the materiality of practices should be replaced by the more multidimensional concept Of performances. Drawing on the new field of performance studies, cultural pragmatics demonstrates how social performances, whether individual or collective, can be analogized systematically to theatrical ones. After defining the elements of social performance, I suggest that these elements have become ``de-fased'' as societies have become more complex. Performances are successful only insofar as they can ``re-fuse'' these increasingly disentangled elements. In a fused performance, audiences identify with actors, and cultural effective mise-en-scene. Performances fail when this scripts achieve verisimilitude through rethinking process is incomplete: the elements of performance remain, apart, and social action seems inauthentic and artificial, failing to persuade. Refusion, by contrast, allows actors to communicate the meanings of their actions successfully and thus to pursue their interests effectively.
- Lewis, AE. 2004. "``what Group?'' - Studying Whites and Whiteness in the Era of ``color-blindness''." Sociological Theory. 22:4 623-646.
- In this article I argue that despite the claims of some, all whites in racialized societies ``have race.'' But because of the current context of race in our society, I argue that scholars of ``whiteness ``face several difficult theoretical and methodological challenges. First is the problem of how to avoid essentializing race when talking about whites as a social collective. That is, scholars must contend with the challenge of how to write about what is shared by those racialized as white without implying that their experiences of racialization all will be the same. Second, within the current context of color-blind racial discourse researchers must confront the reality that some whites claim not to experience their whiteness at all. Third, studies of whiteness must not be conducted in a vacuum: racial discourse or ``culture'' cannot be separated from material realities. Only by attending to and by recognizing these challenges will empirical research on whiteness be able to push the boundaries of our understandings about the role of whites as racial actors and thereby also contribute to our understanding of how race works more generally.
- Kennedy, MD. 2004. "Evolution and Event in History and Social Change: Gerhard Lenski's Critical Theory." Sociological Theory. 22:2 315-327.
- Authors have contrasted social change and history many times, especially in terms of the significance of the event in accounting for the broadest contours of human societies' evolution. After recasting Gerhard Lenski's ecological-evolutionary theory in a critical fashion, by emphasizing its engagement with alternativity and by introducing a different approach to structure, I reconsider the salience of the event in the developmentalist project and suggest that ecological-evolutionary theory can be quite helpful in posing new questions about an eventful sociology. By rethinking communism's collapse in 1989 and terrorism's explosion in 2001 within Lenski's theoretical frame, one can suggest critical transformations of theory and research on the evolution of human societies.
- Hallett, T. 2003. "Symbolic Power and Organizational Culture." Sociological Theory. 21:2 128-149.
- With the recent wave of corporate scandals, organizational culture has regained relevance in politics and the media, However, to acquire enduring utility, the concept needs an overhaul to overcome the weaknesses of earlier approaches. As such, this paper reconceptualizes organizational culture as a negotiated order (Strauss 1978) that emerges through interactions between participants, an order influenced by those with the symbolic power to define the situation. I stress the complementary contributions of theorists of,practice (Bourdieu and Swidler) and theorists of interaction (Goffman and Strauss), building upward from practice into interaction, symbolic power, and the negotiated order. Using data from initial reports on the fall of Arthur Andersen and Co., I compare this symbolic power approach to other approaches (culture as subjective beliefs and values or as context/public meaning). The symbolic power model has five virtues: an empirically observable object of study; the capacity to explain conflict and integration; the ability to explain stability and change; causal efficacy; and links between the micro-, meso-, and macrolevels of analysis. Though this paper focuses on organizational culture, the symbolic power model provides theoretical leverage for understanding many situated contexts.
- Platt, GM & RH Williams. 2002. "Ideological Language and Social Movement Mobilization: a Sociolinguistic Analysis of Segregationists' Ideologies." Sociological Theory. 20:3 328-359.
- The current ``cultural turn `` in the study of social movements has produced a number of concepts formulating the cultural-symbolic dimension of collective actions. This proliferation, however, has resulted in some confusion about which cultural-symbolic concept is best applied to understanding cultural processes involved in social movements. We articulate a new definition of ideology that makes it an empirically useful concept to the study of social-movement mobilization. It is also formulated as autonomous of concepts such as culture and hegemony and of other cultural-symbolic concepts presently used in the movement literature to explain participant mobilization. We demonstrate the usefulness of our ideology concept by analyzing letters written to Martin Luther King, Jr. from segregationists opposed to the integration of American society. The analysis indicates that the letter writers particularized segregationist culture, creating ideologies that fit their structural, cultural, and immediate circumstances, and that the ideologies they constructed thereby acted to mobilize their countermovement participation. The particularizing resulted in four differentiated ideological versions of segregationist culture. The empirically acquired variety of ideological versions is inconsistent with the role attributed to cultural-symbolic concepts in the social-movement literature and requires theoretical clarification. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical implications,for social-movement theory of the variety of segregationist ideologies.
- Fligstein, N. 2001. "Social Skill and the Theory of Fields." Sociological Theory. 19:2 105-125.
- The problem of the relationship between actors and the social structures in which they are embedded is central to sociological theory. This paper suggests that the ``new institutionalist ``focus on fields, domains, or games provides an alternative view of how to think about this problem by focusing on the construction of loca( orders. This paper criticizes the conception of actors in both rational choice and sociological versions of these theories. A more sociological view of action, what is called ``social skill,'' is developed. The idea of social skill originates in symbolic interactionism and is defined as the ability to induct cooperation in others. This idea is elaborated to suggest how actors are important to the construction and reproduction of local orders. I show how, its elements already inform existing work. Finally I show how the idea can sensitize scholars to the role of actors in empirical work.
- Meyer, JW & RL Jepperson. 2000. "The ``actors'' of Modern Society: the Cultural Construction of Social Agency." Sociological Theory. 18:1 100-120.
- Much social theory takes for gr anted the core conceit of modern culture, chat modern actors-individuals, organizations, nation states-are authochthonous and natural entities, no longer really embedded ill culture. Accordingly while there is much abstract metatheory about ``actors `` and their ``agency, `` there is arguably little theory about the topic. This article offers direct arguments about how the modern (European, now global) cultural system constructs the modern actor as an authorized agent for various interests via an ongoing relocation into society of agency originally located in transcendental authority or in natural forces environing the social system. We see this authorized agentic capability as an essential feature of what modern theory and culture call an ``actor,'' and one that, when analyzed, helps greatly in explaining a number of otherwise anomalous ol little analyzed features of modern individuals, organizations, and slates. These features include their isomorphism and standardization, their internal decoupling, their extraordinarily complex structuration, and their capacity for prolific collective action.
- Eliasoph, N & P Lichterman. 1999. "``we Begin With Our Favorite Theory ...'': Reconstructing the Extended Case Method." Sociological Theory. 17:2 228-234.
- Burawoy, M. 1998. "The Extended Case Method." Sociological Theory. 16:1 4-33.
- In this article I elaborate and codify the extended case method. which deploys participant observation to locate everyday life in its extralocal and historical context. The extended case method emulates a reflexive model of science that takes as its premise the intersubjectivity of scientist and subject of study: Reflexive science valorizes intervention, process, structuration, and theory reconstruction. It is the Siamese twin of positive science that proscribes reactivity but upholds reliability replicability, and representativeness. Positive science, exemplified by survey research, works on the principle of the separation between scientists and the subjects they examine. Positive science is limited by ``context effects'' (interview: respondent, field, and situational effects) while reflex ive science is limited by ``power effects'' (domination, silencing, objectification, and normalization). The article concludes by considering the implications of having two models of science rather than one, both of which are necessarily flawed. Throughout I use a study of postcolonialism to illustrate both the virtues and the shortcomings of the extended case method. Methodology can only bring us reflective understanding of the means which have demonstrated their value in practice by raising them to the level of explicit consciousness; it is no more the precondition of fruitful intellectual work than the knowledge of anatomy is the precondition of ``correct'' walking.
- Kane, AE. 1997. "Theorizing Meaning Construction in Social Movements: Symbolic Structures and Interpretation During the Irish Land War, 1879-1882." Sociological Theory. 15:3 249-276.
- Though the process of meaning construction is widely recognized to be a crucial factor in the mobilization, unfolding, and outcomes of social movements, the conditions and mechanisms that allow meaning construction and cultural transformation are often misconceptualized and/or underanalyzed. Following a ``tool kit'' perspective on culture, dominant social movement theory locates meaning only as it is embodied in concrete social practices. Meaning construction from this perspective is a matter of manipulating static symbols and meaning to achieve goals. I argue instead that meaning is located in the structure of culture, and that the condition and mechanism of meaning construction and transformation are, respectively, the metaphoric nature of symbolic systems, and individual and collective interpretation of those systems in the face of concrete events. This theory is demonstrated by analyzing, through textual analysis, meaning construction during the Irish Land War 1879-1882, showing how diverse social groups constructed new and emergent symbolic meanings and how transformed collective understandings contributed to specific, yet unpredictable, political action and movement outcomes. The theoretical model and empirical case demonstrates that social movement analysis must examine the metaphoric logic of symbolic systems and the interpretive process by which people construct meaning in order to fully explain the role of culture in social movements, the agency of movement participants, and the contingency of the course and outcomes of social movements.
- Eliasoph, N. 1996. "Making a Fragile Public: a Talk-centered Study of Citizenship and Power." Sociological Theory. 14:3 262-289.
- Understanding how citizens create contexts for open-ended political conversation in everyday life is an important task for social research, The lack of theoretical attention to political conversation in the current renaissance of studies of ``civil society'' and ``the public sphere'' precludes a thoroughly social understanding of civic life. Participant-observation in U.S. recreational, volunteer, and activist groups shows how the very act of speaking itself comes to mean different things in different civic contexts. It shows dramatic contextual shifts-the more public the context, the less public-spirited the discourse. Institutions encouraged groups to avoid public, political conversation. One group challenged the dominant etiquette for citizenship; the others considered talking politics ``out of place'' almost everywhere. The ways groups relate to public speech itself are themselves meaningful; the concept of ``civic practices'' highlights how groups develop not just the power to make a particular political program public, but the power to make the public itself.
- Somers, MR. 1995. "Narrating and Naturalizing Civil Society and Citizenship Theory: the Place of Political Culture and the Public Sphere." Sociological Theory. 13:3 229-274.
- The English translation of Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere converges with the revival of the `'political culture concept'' in the social sciences. Surprisingly Habermas's account of the Western bourgeois public sphere has much in common with the original political culture concept associated with Parsonian modernization theory in the 1950s and 1960s. In both cases, the concept of political culture is used in a way that is neither political nov cultural. Explaining this peculiarity is the central problem addressed in this article and its companion piece, which appeared in Sociological Theory, volume 3, number 2 (1995). I hypothesize that this is the case because the concept itself is embedded in an historically constituted political culture (here called a conceptual network)-a structured web of conceptual relationships that combine into Angle-American citizenship theory. The method of an historical sociology of concept formation is used to analyze historically and empirically the internal constraints and dynamics of this conceptual network. The method draws from new work in cultural history and sociology, social studies, and network, narrative, and institutional analysis. This research yields three empirical findings: this conceptual network has a narrative structure, here called the Angle-American citizenship story; this narrative is grafted onto an epistemology of social naturalism; and these elements combine in a metanarrative that continues to constrain empirical research in political sociology.
- SOMERS, MR. 1995. "Whats Political or Cultural About Political-culture and the Public Sphere - Toward an Historical Sociology of Concept-formation." Sociological Theory. 13:2 113-144.
- The English translation of Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere converges with a recent trend toward the revival of the `'political culture concept'' in the social sciences. Surprisingly, Habermas's account of the Western bourgeois public sphere has much in common with the original political culture concept associated with Parsonian modernization theory in the 1950s and 1960s. In both cases, the concept of political culture is used in a way that is neither political nor cultural. Explaining this peculiarity is the central problem addressed in this article and one to follow I hypothesize that this is the case because the concept itself is embedded in an historically constituted political culture (here called a conceptual network)-a structured web of conceptual relationships that combine into Anglo-American citizenship theory. The method of an historical sociology of concept formation is introduced to analyze historically and empirically the internal constraints and dynamics of this conceptual network. The method draws from new work in cultural history and sociology, social studies, and network, narrative, and institutional analysis. This research yields three empirical findings: this conceptual network has a narrative structure, here called the Anglo-American citizenship story; this narrative is grafted onto an epistemology of social naturalism; and these elements combine in a metanarrative that continues to constrain empirical research in political sociology.