Epistemological culture theory: A micro theory of the origin and maintenance of culture

Sociological Theory 20 (2):208-226 (2002)
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 them 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 an 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
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DOI 10.2307/3108646
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