Contemporary articles citing Swidler A (1986) Am Sociol Rev
cultural, culture, political, approach, recent, meaning, practices, concept, studies, model
- 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.
- Archer, Margaret. 2010. "Routine, Reflexivity, and Realism." Sociological Theory. 28:3 272-303.
- Many scholars continue to accord routine action a central role in social theory and defend the continuing relevance of Bourdieu's habitus. Simultaneously, most recognize the importance of reflexivity. In this article, I consider three versions of the effort to render these concepts compatible, which I term ``empirical combination,'' ``hybridization,'' and ``ontological and theoretical reconciliation.'' None of the efforts is ultimately successful in analytical terms. Moreover, I argue on empirical grounds that the relevance of habitus began to decrease toward the end of the 20th century, given major changes in the structures of the advanced capitalist democracies. In these circumstances, habitual forms prove incapable of providing guidelines for people's lives and, thus, make reflexivity imperative. I conclude by arguing that even the reproduction of natal background is a reflexive activity today and that the mode most favorable to producing it-what I call ``communicative reflexivity''-is becoming harder to sustain.
- Garcelon, Marc. 2010. "The Missing Key: Institutions, Networks, and the Project of Neoclassical Sociology." Sociological Theory. 28:3 326-353.
- The diversity of contemporary ``capitalisms'' underscores the need to supplant the amorphous concept of structure with more precise concepts, particularly institutions and networks. All institutions entail both embodied and relational aspects. Institutions are relational insofar as they map obligatory patterns of ``getting by and getting along''-institutional orders-that steer stable social fields over time. Institutions are simultaneously embodied as institutional paradigms, part of a larger bodily agency Pierre Bourdieu called habitus. Institutions are in turn tightly coupled to networks between various people based on, but not reducible to, strategic interests. Yet social interaction sometimes exceeds institutional boundaries, giving rise to disjunctive fields and underscoring the prominence of institutional failures in the unfolding of antagonistic relations such as warfare. Such disjunctive fields can be tracked in relation to some transnational networks at the global level without assuming developmental convergence. This last point underscores the meaning of neoclassical sociology, which eschews assumptions of developmental convergence at the global level.
- Beckert, Jens. 2010. "Institutional Isomorphism Revisited: Convergence and Divergence in Institutional Change." Sociological Theory. 28:2 150-166.
- Under the influence of groundbreaking work by John Meyer and Brian Bowen, as well as Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell, over the last 30 years research in the new sociological institutionalism has focused on processes of isomorphism. I argue that this is a one-sided focus that leaves out many insights from other institutional and macrosociological approaches and does not do justice to actual social change because it overlooks the role played by divergent institutional development. While the suggestion of divergent trends is not new, there have been Jew attempts to integrate divergence into the theoretical premises of the new sociological institutionalism. Based on the typology proposed by DiMaggio and Powell, I show that the mechanisms identified by them as sources of isomorphic change can support processes of divergent change as well. The theoretical challenge is to identify conditions under which these mechanisms push institutional change toward homogenization or divergence.
- Lo, Ming-Cheng & Yun Fan. 2010. "Hybrid Cultural Codes in Nonwestern Civil Society: Images of Women in Taiwan and Hong Kong." Sociological Theory. 28:2 167-192.
- Scholars have established that cultural codes and styles of expression in civil society must be recognized as informal mechanisms of exclusion, calling into question the possibility of the Habermasian normative ideal of the public sphere. This article joins theoretical discussions of how to remedy this problem. Going beyond Alexander's model of ``multicultural incorporation'' and borrowing from Sewell's theory of the duality of structure, we develop a theoretical framework of code hybridization to conceptualize how civil society participants achieve civil solidarity amid multiple, potentially contradictory cultural legacies. Code hybridization is a process whereby social actors not only incorporate the cultural codes of subordinate groups into the public sphere, but in doing so also potentially transform dominant codes. We conceptualize code hybridization in terms of three analytic steps: enlargement of the terrains of signification; reinterpretation of codes; and mixing of schemas. The resulting hybridized schemas and frameworks are particularly useful cultural tools for developing visions of civil inclusiveness for young, unstable civil societies. Using a brief comparative study of the representation of women in political cartoons in Hong Kong and Taiwan, we offer a concrete example of code hybridization a process linking the codes of liberty and caring while producing alternative and more inclusive narratives during moments of political agitation.
- Gould, Mark. 2009. "Culture, Personality, and Emotion in George Herbert Mead: a Critique of Empiricism in Cultural Sociology." Sociological Theory. 27:4 435-448.
- Focusing on Mind, Self and Society, I contend that George Herbert Mead's theory is incapable of explaining the interactions in a song by Oscar Brown Jr., ``The Snake,'' and that a satisfactory explanation of these actions, which illuminate everyday conduct familiar to us all, requires the conceptualization of personality systems grounded in affect and cultural systems understood as symbolic logics that make intelligible certain activities. My argument is important not primarily as a critique of Mead, but of rational-choice and other cognitive theories that reduce emotions to cognitions, and of the currently dominant sociological and anthropological conceptualizations that reduce culture to forms of social practice.
- Abrutyn, Seth. 2009. "Toward a General Theory of Institutional Autonomy." Sociological Theory. 27:4 449-465.
- Institutional differentiation has been one of the central concerns of sociology since the days of Auguste Comte. However, the overarching tendency among institutionalists such as Durkheim or Spencer has been to treat the process of differentiation from a macro, ``outside in'' perspective. Missing from this analysis is how institutional differentiation occurs from the ``inside out,'' or through the efforts and struggles of individual and corporate actors. Despite the recent efforts of the ``new institutionalism'' to fill in this gap, a closer look at the literature will uncover the fact that (1) it has tended to conflate macro-level institutions and meso-level organizations and (2) this has led to a taken for granted approach to institutional dynamics. This article seeks to develop a general theory of institutional autonomy; autonomy is a function of the degree to which specialized corporate units are structurally and symbolically independent of other corporate units. It is argued herein that the process by which these ``institutional entrepreneurs'' become independent can explain how institutions become differentiated from the ``inside out.'' Moreover, this article offers five dimensions that can be operationalized, measuring the degree to which institutions are autonomous.
- Earl, Jennifer & Katrina Kimport. 2009. "Movement Societies and Digital Protest: Fan Activism and Other Nonpolitical Protest Online." Sociological Theory. 27:3 220-243.
- Sociologists of culture studying ``fan activism'' have noted an apparent increase in its volume, which they attribute to the growing use of the Internet to register fan claims. However, scholars have yet to measure the extent of contemporary fan activism, account for why fan discontent has been expressed through protest, or precisely specify the role of the Internet in this expansion. We argue that these questions can be addressed by drawing on a growing body of work by social movement scholars on ``movement societies,'' and more particularly on a nascent thread of this approach we develop that theorizes the appropriation of protest practices for causes outside the purview of traditional social movements. Theorizing that the Internet, as a new media, is positioned to accelerate the diffusion of protest practices, we develop and test hypotheses about the use of movement practices for fan activism and other nonpolitical claims online using data on claims made in quasi-random samples of online petitions, boycotts, and e-mailing or letter-writing campaigns. Results are supportive of our hypotheses, showing that diverse claims are being pursued online, including culturally-oriented and consumer-based claims that look very different from traditional social movement claims. Findings have implications for students of social movements, sociologists of culture, and Internet studies.
- 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.''.
- 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.
- 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.
- Baiocchi, Gianpaolo. 2006. "The Civilizing Force of Social Movements: Corporate and Liberal Codes in Brazil's Public Sphere." Sociological Theory. 24:4 285-311.
- Analysts of political culture within the ``civil religion'' tradition have generally assumed that discourse in civil society is structured by a single set of enduring codes based on liberal traditions that actors draw upon to resolve crises. Based on two case studies of national crises and debate in Brazil during its transition to democracy, I challenge this assumption by demonstrating that not only do actors draw upon two distinct but interrelated codes, they actively seek to impose one or another as dominant. In Brazil this is manifest in actors who defend elements from the code of liberty and its valuation of the freestanding citizen, and those who defend the corporate code and its valuation of the collectivity over the individual. In an earlier debate on crime the corporate code was dominant, but in a later debate surrounding presidential improprieties, the liberal code became dominant. This analysis makes two contributions to the literature: it highlights the importance of nonindividualist cultural codes, such as the corporate code, in animating discourse in the public sphere in democratizing societies, raising attention to the importance of the symbolic contestation between actors seeking to establish one or another code during political transitions. Second, it offers a subtle commentary on the literature on democratization: changes in collective representations in the public sphere may not proceed apace of institutional changes and may be contingent on the kinds of crisis events and actors willing to contest previously dominant codes.
- 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.
- Kaye, HL. 2003. "Was Freud a Medical Scientist or a Social Theorist? - the Mysterious ``development of the Hero''." Sociological Theory. 21:4 375-397.
- Rather than viewing Freud as a presumptuous Viennese physician who late in life attempted to ``apply'' some of his provocative psychological speculations to various social phenomena, this essay argues that from first to last, Freud was a social theorist. Indeed, what drew Freud to the study of biology and medicine was precisely the hope of addressing scientifically the most fundamental cultural problems: the nature of man and his culture; the origins of religion, morality, and tradition and the nature of their extraordinary power; the sources of social order and disorder; the direction of contemporary cultural development; and, finally, the problem of how to live in a disenchanted and psychologically impoverished world. Reading Freud in this manner moves his ``cultural'' texts from the periphery to the center of his work and makes possible an appreciation of the more complex, coherent, and illuminating social theory that lies at its heart.
- 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.
- Demerath, L. 2002. "Epistemological Culture Theory: a Micro Theory of the Origin and Maintenance of Culture." Sociological Theory. 20:2 208-226.
- This paper presents a new ``epistemological'' theory of culture that explains how individuals enhance their sense of security in the world by creating and maintaining culture as knowledge of the world. Using cognitive and affective processes previously ignored by culture theorists, the theory posits three dimensions of cultural production: we articulate, typify, and orient our experiences to make their meaningful. The theory asserts that we produce culture because it allows us to,feel as if we understand our world, and to perceive it as ordered; this in turn triggers an aesthetic response of knowledge-based affect. The theory explains how cultural production is motivated by the pursuit of meaningfulness as well as material interests. The theory describes how ail oppressive culture can be reproduced unintentionally, even by the groups it oppresses. The theory also identifies connections between social structure and culture where conditions of ambiguity or control have implications for how meaning can be created.
- Breslau, D. 2000. "Sociology After Humanism: a Lesson From Contemporary Science Studies." Sociological Theory. 18:2 289-307.
- The field of science studies is the site of an explicit reflection on the ontological premises of sociology, with rival approaches defined by distinctive ways of specifying the basic constituents of reality. This article takes advantage of this debate to compare three types of ontological schemes in terms of their internal coherence and their consequences for sociology. Sociological in terms of their internal coherence and their consequences for sociology. Sociological humanism-represented by proponents of the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK)-distinguishes between an immanent domain of social relations, a transcendent and meaningless material reality, and an intermediate, socially constructed level of knowledge, meaning and culture. Symmetrical humanism-as found in the recent writings of Andrew Pickering-insists that society too should be placed among the constructions, thereby disqualifying it as a source of explanations of human agency and leaving a detached and self-moving human agent. The relational ontology-exemplified by the ``actor-network'' approach of Bruno Latour adn others-make no a priori distinctions between humans and others, or between trandscendent reality and construction, treating these properties as outcomes. The two humanist approaches are found to be incoherent as ontological schemes and also, contrary to the antisociological stance of the actor-network approach, it is found that the relational ontology provides a consistent basis for sociological explanations of human practices.
- Wood, RL. 1999. "Religious Culture and Political Action." Sociological Theory. 17:3 307-332.
- Recent work by political sociologists and social movement theorists extend our understanding of how religious institutions contribute to expanding democracy, but nearly all analyze religious institutions as institutions; few focus directly on what religion qua religion might contribute. This article strives to illuminate the impact of religious culture per se, extending recent work on religion and democratic life by a small group of social movement scholars trained also in the sociology of religion. In examining religion's democratic impact, an explicitly cultural analysis inspired by the new approach to political culture developed by historical sociologists and cultural analysts of democracy is used to show the power of this approach and to provide a fuller theoretical account of how cultural dynamics shape political outcomes. The article examines religious institutions as generators of religious culture, presents a theoretical model of how religious cultural elements are incorporated into social movements and so shape their internal political cultures, and discusses how this in turn shapes their impact in the public realm. This model is then applied to a key site of democratic struggle: four efforts to promote social justice among low-income urban residents of the United States, including the most widespread such effort-faith-based community organizing.
- 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.
- Kalberg, S. 1996. "On the Neglect of Weber's Protestant Ethic as a Theoretical Treatise: Demarcating the Parameters of Postwar American Sociological Theory." Sociological Theory. 14:1 49-70.
- Although widely recognized as one of sociology's true classics, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism has largely failed to influence the development of sociological theory in the United States. Because it has been read almost exclusively as a study of the ``role of ideas'' in economic development, its diverse and multifaceted theoretical contributions generally have been neglected. This study explicitly calls attention to The Protestant Ethic as a theoretical treatise by examining this classic in reference to four major debates in postwar sociological theory in the United States. Moreover, it demarcates an array of major parameters in American theorizing. The conclusion speculates upon the reasons for the strong opposition to The Protestant Ethic's theoretical lessons and argues that a style of theorizing unique to sociology in the United States has erected firm barriers against this classic text.
- Lichterman, P. 1995. "Beyond the Seesaw Model: Public Commitment in a Culture of Self-fulfillment." Sociological Theory. 13:3 275-300.
- Communitarian sociological theory and research of the past 30 years has often assumed that a growing culture of self-fulfillment, or `'personalism,'' is ultimately incompatible with commitment to the public good. This article argues that this `'seesaw model'' does not exhaust the possible relations between personalism and public commitment. It borrows insights from radical democratic theories to argue the existence of a form of public commitment that is enacted through, rather than impeded by, personalism. A cultural analysis that highlights everyday practices enables us to conceptualize this personalized form of public commitment, which goes unrecognized in communitarian accounts, and which gets discussed only in formal theoretical or social-psychological, terms in radical democratic theories. A case example of personalized public commitment in recent grass-roots environmentalism illustrates the limits in the seesaw model and speaks back to radical democratic theories of public commitment by illuminating how the individualized commitment they theorize may work in everyday cultural practice. I conclude with suggestions for further theoretical work on personalism.
- 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.
- RAMBO, E. 1995. "Conceiving Best Outcomes Within a Theory of Utility Maximization - a Culture-level Critique." Sociological Theory. 13:2 145-162.
- Coleman's rational choice theory introduces the idea of a `'social optimum'' into sociological theory. This idea of conceiving best outcomes is central to the project of reasoned progress and is an important tonic against the postmodern doubt. The utility maximization approach is inadequate, however because it is locked into an analysis of social structures. As a result it cannot conceptualize common standards, which are essential to best outcomes. These are treated adequately only within a cultural analysis. Welfare economics has dealt with this problem of best outcomes for a long time. Its history with the problem verifies the insuperable difficulties in a conception of action as utility maximization. When Coleman generalizes that approach, he manages only to reduce standards to power. This is inadequate. Some implications of conceiving common standards as culture are discussed.