From 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-fused" 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 scripts achieve verisimilitude through effective mise-en-scène. Performances fail when this relinking 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. (shrink)
After introducing a perspective on terrorism as postpolitical and after establishing the criteria for success that are immanent in this form of antipolitical action, this essay interprets September 11, 2001, and its aftermath inside a cultural-sociological perspective. After introducing a macro-model of social performance that combines structural and semiotic with pragmatic and power-oriented dimensions, I show how the terrorist attack on New York City and the counterattacks that immediately occurred in response can be viewed as an iteration of the performance/counterperformance (...) dialectic that began decades, indeed centuries, ago in terms of the relation of Western expansion and Arab-Muslim reaction. I pay careful attention to the manner in which the counterperformance of New Yorkers and Americans develops an idealized, liminal alternative that inspired self-defense and outrage, leading to exactly the opposite performance results from those the al-Qaeda terrorists had intended. (shrink)
This article suggests an iconic turn in cultural sociology. Icons can be seen, it is argued, as symbolic condensations that root social meanings in material form, allowing the abstractions of cognition and morality to be subsumed, to be made invisible, by aesthetic shape. Meaning is made iconically visible, in other words, by the beautiful, sublime, ugly, or simply by the mundane materiality of everyday life. But it is via the senses that iconic power is made. This new approach to meaning (...) is compared with others — with materialism, semiotics, aestheticism, moralism, realism, and spiritualism. (shrink)
One of the most important contributions of the Parsonian tradition has been its conceptualization of the relative autonomy and mutual interpenetration of culture and social systems. The first part of this chapter defines three ideal types of empirical relationships between culture and society: specification, refraction, and columnization. Each is related to different configurations of social structure and culture and, in turn, to different degrees of social conflict. The second part of the chapter uses this typology to illuminate critical aspects of (...) the relationship between conflict and integration in the Watergate crisis in the U.S. (shrink)
Simmel develops his concept of the stranger in an overly structural and reductionist manner. Contrary to Simmel’s suggestion, there is an indeterminate relation between structural exclusion and the attribution of strangeness. After showing that ‘the stranger’ must be rethought in a cultural-sociological way, this essay demonstrates an alternative approach. Articulating a ‘discourse’ that structures Western projections of strangeness, I explore its relation to colonialism, racial and class domination, and national conflict in modern Western history. This approach suggests an alternative, not (...) only to Simmel but to Merton’s and Coser’s earlier structural-functional reconceptualization of stranger theory. (shrink)
Social theory between progress and apocalypse -- Autonomy and domination: Weber's cage -- Barbarism and modernity: Eisenstadt's regret -- Integration and justice: Parsons' utopia -- Despising others: Simmel's stranger -- Meaning evil -- De-civilizing the civil sphere -- Psychotherapy as central institution -- The frictions of modernity and their possible repair.
This four-volume set presents an unrivalled collection of the key literature in European sociology. The prestigious texts range across the European tradition from enlightenment to contemporary theory. The collection explodes the myth that the European tradition in sociology is a debate with the ghosts of Karl Marx and Max Weber, demonstrating that the tradition is far more deeply rooted and broadly based. Volume 1 is devoted to the emergence of European sociology. The contribution of classical political economy and the Enlightenment (...) is examined. Commentaries on the work of Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Taine, Rousseau, de Tocqueville, Comte and St. Simon are included. The volume creates a vivid and compelling picture of the origins of European sociology. Volume 2 covers the rise of the classical period in social theory. It includes commentaries on the contribution of Marx, Spencer, Dilthey, Weber, Durkheim and Simmel. An overview of the main contributions of the founding fathers is also included. Volume 3 moves on to explore the main developments in the first half of the twentieth century. The contributions of the Durkheimian Tradition, Mauss, Mannheim, Lukacs, Gramsci and British sociology are presented. The volume provides a synoptic view of the diversity and emerging complexity of European sociology. Volume 4 identifies the main developments from post-industrial theory to the present day. The volume includes commentaries on the work of Aron, Foucault, Habermas, Giddens, Bourdieu, Boudon and Gellner. Selections on structuralism, polysemy, the positivist dispute and the neo-liberal tradition widen out the picture. The collection is the benchmark work for understanding the history, contribution and dilemmas of the European tradition. Full account is taken of the reference needs of students as well as of academics. Each hardcover volume of 416 pages is bound to the highest standards. The lettering on the cover is gold embossed. The slip case for the four volumes is also embossed. The volumes are not available separately. (shrink)