Sociology Sociology of Culture
by
Brian Steensland
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0055

Introduction

Culture is the symbolic-expressive dimension of social life. In common usage, the term “culture” can mean the cultivation associated with “civilized” habits of mind, the creative products associated with the arts, or the entire way of life associated with a group. Among sociologists, “culture” just as often refers to the beliefs that people hold about reality, the norms that guide their behavior, the values that orient their moral commitments, or the symbols through which these beliefs, norms, and values are communicated. The sociological study of culture encompasses all these diverse meanings of “culture.” Amid this diversity, what unifies the sociology of culture are two core commitments: that the symbolic-expressive dimension of social life is worthy of examination, both for its own sake and because of its impact on other aspects of social life; and that culture can be studied using the methods and analytic tools of sociology. Within the discipline, the sociology of culture emerged as a bounded subfield during the 1980s. Prior to this period, sociological analyses of culture were found mainly in theoretical treatises and in empirical studies of religion, the arts, and the “sociology of knowledge.” Throughout, the sociological study of culture has been oriented by a common set of broad questions: What are the social origins of culture? What cultural patterns are found in various groups and institutions? And what influence does culture have on important aspects of society? Scholarship in the sociology of culture ranges from highly general conceptual arguments to closely observed empirical studies. The readings included here reflect this breadth.

General Overviews

Overviews of the sociology of culture take a variety of forms. Griswold 2008 is a popular introduction to key concepts and debates. It also gives sustained attention to the arts and cultural industries. Battani, et al. 2003 provides broad coverage, with special attention to politics and power dynamics. Smith and Riley 2009 contains the best introduction to general theories of culture and their relations to one another. A recent special volume on cultural sociology, Binder, et al. 2008, provides an introduction of a different sort. It collects review articles on the intersection between cultural analysis and other topical areas within sociology.

  • Battani, Marshall, John R. Hall, and Mary Jo Neitz. 2003. Sociology on culture. New York: Routledge.

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    A broad overview of the sociology of culture with particular emphasis on stratification, modernity, power dynamics, and social change.

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    • Binder, Amy, Mary Blair-Loy, John H. Evans, Kwai Ng, and Michael Schudson, eds. 2008. Cultural sociology and its diversity. Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Science 619. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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      A recent collection of papers describing how cultural approaches have been incorporated into a wide range of topical areas in sociology, including the law, education, science, sexuality, economic markets, formal organizations, social movements, popular culture, and race and ethnicity.

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      • Griswold, Wendy. 2008. Cultures and societies in a changing world. 3d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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        A clear and concise introduction to the sociological study of culture. Particularly strong on outlining the multiple meanings of “culture” and showing the value of conceptualizing cultural processes using Griswold’s “cultural diamond” analytic framework.

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        • Smith, Philip, and Alexander Riley. 2009. Cultural theory: An introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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          An exhaustive yet accessible introduction to cultural theory in its many manifestations. An indispensable guide to complex conceptual terrain.

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          Edited Volumes

          Three edited volumes introduce readers to key concepts and debates in cultural sociology using pieces written by influential scholars in the field. Alexander and Seidman 1990 is the most analytic. It collects writings ranging from the “classical” to the contemporary era and organizes them according to their conceptual approach. Spillman 2002 and Smith 1998 focus more on exemplary work that has come out since the 1980s.

          • Alexander, Jeffrey C., and Steven Seidman, eds. 1990. Culture and society: Contemporary debates. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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            This reader draws connections between “classical” and “contemporary” views of culture and groups them analytically by their various approaches to culture (e.g., Marxian, semiotic, dramaturgical). The two section introductions by the editors are quite strong. Alexander’s sheds light on an important conceptual debate concerning the autonomy of culture from its material base, while Seidman’s explores the nature of the moral order.

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            • Smith, Philip, ed. 1998. The new American cultural sociology. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511520808Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              A helpful reader that collects work from many leading cultural sociologists and organizes their contributions into three sections based on cultural production and reception, culture in action, and culture as text.

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              • Spillman, Lyn, ed. 2002. Cultural sociology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                An illuminating volume that covers key ideas and their topic applications, using readings from some of the field’s leading contemporary practitioners. Offers a good balance of theoretical and empirical work.

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                Classic Statements

                Each of the scholars whose writings constitute the sociological canon had a valuable perspective on culture, even if it was not their primary topic of interest. Marx’s writing on culture and ideology, collected in Marx and Engels 1978, has been influential as a classic articulation of the materialist perspective—the idea that culture is reducible to more fundamental features of social organization and therefore unlikely to exert independent influence on social life. This viewpoint has often justified the neglect of culture in sociology. Weber 1930 formulated a counter-argument that the subjective ideas held by groups of individuals can be responsible for great social transformations, such as the rise of capitalism. Weber 1958 makes a similar argument about the role of group perceptions among status groups as an important basis of social stratification. The analysis of religion and moral solidarity in Durkheim 1995 has enjoyed renewed appreciation since the 1980s thanks to its sharp analysis of social classification, symbolism, and ritual. Parsons’s perspective on culture and social integration, described in Parsons and Shils 1951, brought together Weber’s analysis of value-rational action with Durkheim’s holistic view of social integration. Though completely out of fashion today, Parsons’s view of culture still exerts enormous influence on contemporary cultural analysis. Other scholarship from the classical era has recently been “rediscovered” by cultural analysts. Essays in Simmel 1971 on social mentalities and group relations serve as an important touchstone for research on culture and social networks; writings on language in Saussure 1964 have received renewed attention owing to their centrality to the semiotic perspective on culture; and interest in culture and consumption has sparked interest in the analysis in Veblen 1967 of conspicuous consumption and leisure.

                • Durkheim, Émile. 1995. The elementary forms of religious life. Translated by Karen E. Fields. New York: Free Press.

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                  This rich analysis is an essential touchstone for the study of classification, symbolism, and ritual. It is also a searching exploration of the moral basis of social life, which Durkheim argued was rooted in notions of the sacred. Though criticized at times for its functionalist and evolutionary assumptions, it has enjoyed renewed appreciation during the past two decades. Originally published in 1912.

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                  • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1978. The Marx-Engels reader. Edited by Robert C. Tucker. New York: W. W. Norton.

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                    Contains Marx’s highly influential views of the relationship between culture and social structure. Particularly relevant to cultural sociologists are “Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” “The German Ideology, Part 1,” “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction,” and “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.” Originally published between 1843 and 1859.

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                    • Parsons, Talcott, and Edward A. Shils, eds. 1951. Toward a general theory of action: Theoretical foundations for the social sciences. New York: Harper Torchbooks.

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                      The section of the book by Parsons and Shils (“Values, Motives, and Systems of Action”) introduces Parsons’s highly elaborated general theory of society known as structural-functionalism. Though largely dismissed on a variety of grounds by contemporary analysts, these ideas have exerted enormous influence (often in the form of backlash) on the sociology of culture since their publication.

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                      • Saussure, Ferdinand. 1964. Course in general linguistics. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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                        Though Saussure’s work is not typically read by sociologists, it provides an important point of reference for the semiotic approach to culture. Particularly relevant are the implications of his argument that the connections between words and their associated concepts are arbitrary, and that meaning inheres in the relationship between symbols, not in the symbols themselves. Originally published in 1916.

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                        • Simmel, Georg. 1971. On individuality and social forms. Edited by Donald Levine. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                          Though not centrally occupied with culture, some of Simmel’s essays offer provocative analyses of the relationship between social mentalities and patterns of group interaction. This line of thinking anticipates contemporary scholarship on culture and social networks. Particularly relevant are “The Stranger,” “Group Expansion and the Development of Individuality,” and “The Metropolis and Mental Life.” Originally published between 1903 and 1908.

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                          • Veblen, Thorstein. 1967. The theory of the leisure class. New York: Penguin.

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                            Veblen’s book explores why certain objects and behaviors confer social status. It introduces the notions of “conspicuous consumption” and “conspicuous leisure,” and argues that the high status accorded to these behaviors derives from the ability to waste socially valued goods. A classic text in studies of social class and consumption. Originally published in 1899.

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                            • Weber, Max. 1930. The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Translated by Talcott Parsons. New York: Routledge.

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                              Presents Weber’s well-known analysis of the role played by religious ideals in the rise of capitalism. Though the book’s cultural argument is sometimes read as being overly simplistic, Weber intentionally advanced it to counter Marx’s materialist account of capitalist development. Conceptually, the book demonstrates Weber’s analytical commitment to incorporating actors’ subjective understandings into sociological explanation. Originally published in 1904–1905.

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                              • Weber, Max. 1958. Class, status, party. In From Max Weber: Essays in sociology. Edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, 180–195. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                This essay outlines Weber’s multidimensional view of stratification processes. His discussion of social status as a basis for social hierarchies has been highly influential in studies of inequality, social conflict, and class reproduction. Originally published in 1922.

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                                Contemporary Statements

                                The contemporary sociology of culture is largely defined by its responses to Parsons among American sociologists and to structuralism in Europe. (On structuralism, see the helpful chapter in Smith and Riley 2009, cited in General Overviews.) The highly influential essays in Geertz 1973 on culture share some of Parsons’s assumptions about social and system integration, while shifting the focus from values and internalized states to public symbolic systems. The statement of Swidler 1986 on “culture in action” takes its main aim at Parsons’s theory of values-based action. Wuthnow 1987 and Alexander 2003 both extend Geertz’s semiotic approach to culture while also drawing from European structuralism, which focuses more explicitly on the structural relations between symbols, and poststructuralism, which theorizes the discursive formations that render particular symbols (whether material or linguistic) meaningful. These conceptual flights from Parsons’s focus on values have led to calls to bring the normative element of culture back into analysts’ frameworks. Smith 2003 observes that contemporary cultural theory lacks sufficient attention to human motivation—at least to the extent the human motivation extends beyond immediate instrumental interests—and contends that actors’ moral commitments deserve greater attention. Vaisey 2009 develops a “dual process” model of culture that creates conceptual space for moral motivations, especially those that work at a deep subconscious level. Coming from an explicitly European intellectual tradition, Bourdieu 1990 blends elements of structuralism and phenomenology to develop an influential theory of cultural practices that centers on the “habitus” and illuminates processes of social reproduction. Sewell 1992 reconceptualizes Bourdieu’s theory of reproduction by giving greater attention to the role played by cultural schemas in constituting social structure.

                                • Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2003. The meanings of social life: A cultural sociology. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                  A clear statement of Alexander’s “strong program” in cultural sociology, which argues that a semiotic approach to cultural explanation should be the basis for cultural analysis. He positions this approach against others that he considers to be overly reductionist, thereby not granting enough independent influence to symbolic structure.

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                                  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. The logic of practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                    One of the most influential works of cultural theory in the past generation. Bourdieu develops an approach that seeks to explain the social reproduction of inequality while blending structural and phenomenological modes of analysis. His “habitus” concept has been central in the recent turn to examining cultural practices. The book covers similar ground to Bourdieu’s earlier book, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977).

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                                    • Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.

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                                      A highly influential collection of essays that presents an argument that culture is best studied as a publicly available symbolic system. Geertz’s introductory essay on “thick description” and his concluding analysis of a Balinese cockfight are especially notable.

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                                      • Sewell, William H., Jr. 1992. A theory of structure: Duality, agency, and transformation. American Journal of Sociology 98:1–29.

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                                        An ambitious attempt to reconceptualize “social structure” as dually constituted by resources and schemas. Sewell’s perspective renders structure as thoroughly infused with cultural assumptions and meanings. He argues that this perspective on social structure better incorporates the potential for agency and change.

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                                        • Smith, Christian. 2003. Moral believing animals: Human personhood and culture. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                          This book marks a resurgent interest in incorporating motivation and morality more explicitly into cultural theory. Smith criticizes a number of existing approaches for their inadequate attention to human motivation. In lieu of the implicit instrumentalism he sees in much of cultural sociology, he argues for greater attention to moral commitments in shaping actors’ ultimate ends.

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                                          • Swidler, Ann. 1986. Culture in action: Symbols and strategies. American Sociological Review 51:273–286.

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                                            A seminal argument that culture should be conceptualized as a “toolkit” of skills, styles, and habits by which people pursue their goals. In this view, culture influences action more by shaping strategies of action than by defining ultimate values or desired ends.

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                                            • Vaisey, Stephen. 2009. Motivation and justification: A dual-process model of culture in action. American Journal of Sociology 114:1675–1715.

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                                              Contends that perspectives on culture are divided into two camps: those that view culture as motivating action, and those that view culture as justifying action. The article advances a “dual process” theory in which culture can be seen as working at conscious and subconscious levels. Culture is causal (or motivational) when it is rooted in internalized habits of moral judgment, even if actors themselves may not be able to articulate their motivations.

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                                              • Wuthnow, Robert. 1987. Meaning and moral order: Explorations in cultural analysis. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                An important collection of essays that stakes out an approach to cultural analysis that refrains from examining individuals’ subjective states. Known for attempting to move beyond the “problem of meaning.” Heavily influenced by poststructuralism in European social theory.

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                                                Methodology in Cultural Analysis

                                                With the resurgent interest in culture in the 1980s came increased attention to how to study it empirically. While work in the classical canon provided a rich reservoir of concepts and theories, it gave little guidance for empirical analyses of culture. Two of the broadest attempts to provide an analytic framework for cultural research can be found in Griswold 1987 and Jepperson and Swidler 1994. Most writing on cultural methods is more restricted to specific techniques or sources of data. Carley 1994 and Mohr 1998 both outline formal quantitative methods for the analysis of texts. Johnston 1995 offers a qualitative perspective on textual analysis with a special emphasis on discursive frames. In a pragmatic but somewhat skeptical vein, Marsden and Swingle 1994 discusses the use of survey data for cultural analysis. Breiger 2000 examines quantitative approaches to operationalizing practice theory, which is more often studied from a qualitative perspective. Somers 1999 outlines a historical framework for “unthinking” cultural discourses.

                                                • Breiger, Ronald L. 2000. A tool kit for practice theory. Poetics 27:91–115.

                                                  DOI: 10.1016/S0304-422X(99)00026-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Develops a formal, quantitative technique for empirically examining a key tenet of practice theory: that material relations and symbolic structure interpenetrate one another. Closely in dialogue with Bourdieu’s use of correspondence analysis to document the relationship between social location and cultural taste (see Bourdieu (1984, cited under Social Stratification).

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                                                  • Carley, Kathleen M. 1994. Extracting culture though textual analysis. Poetics 22:291–312.

                                                    DOI: 10.1016/0304-422X(94)90011-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    An innovative empirical study that argues that elements of cognitive processes can be distilled using a combination of map analysis and content analysis. Discusses the pros and cons of each technique.

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                                                    • Griswold, Wendy. 1987. A methodological framework for the study of culture. Sociological Methodology 17:1–35.

                                                      DOI: 10.2307/271027Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      An early attempt to formulate an analytic framework for the social scientific study of culture. Puts forward four criteria for evaluating the persuasive power of a cultural argument, and develops three criteria for assessing the validity of competing accounts. Parts of this framework evolved into the “cultural diamond” found in Griswold 2008 (cited under General Overviews).

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                                                      • Jepperson, Ronald L., and Ann Swidler. 1994. What properties of culture should we measure? Poetics 22:359–371.

                                                        DOI: 10.1016/0304-422X(94)90014-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Argues that the challenges confronting cultural analysis are as conceptual as they are strictly methodological. The article distinguishes between different types of culture and different levels of analysis (e.g., individual, aggregate, and collective) and argues that levels of measurement and levels of analysis are orthogonal to one another.

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                                                        • Johnston, Hank. 1995. A methodology for frame analysis: From discourse to cognitive schemata. In Social movements and culture. Edited by Hank Johnston and Bert Klandermans, 217–246. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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                                                          Useful for its pragmatic guidance, this chapter develops a “micro-discourse analysis” approach to studying discursive frames in social movement processes. It uses linguistic theory and careful attention to the speech situation to graphically reconstruct frames and their influence in ways that are both reliable and valid.

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                                                          • Marsden, Peter V., and Joseph F. Swingle. 1994. Conceptualizing and measuring culture in surveys: Values, strategies and symbols. Poetics 22:269–289.

                                                            DOI: 10.1016/0304-422X(94)90010-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            This article focuses on a special culture module that appeared in a major national survey, the General Social Survey. The authors discuss some of the key findings concerning Americans’ values, behavioral predispositions, and tastes. The authors cast a skeptical eye on the idea that surveys can adequately capture some of the central concepts in the sociology of culture, especially those concerning individuals’ taken-for-granted worldviews.

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                                                            • Mohr, John W. 1998. Measuring meaning structures. Annual Review of Sociology 24:345–370.

                                                              DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.24.1.345Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Provides a concise introduction to formal, quantitatively oriented studies that take a poststructuralist approach to meaning (based on relations between entities) and conceptualize culture at the level of institutional practices rather than individuals. Methods discussed include multidimensional scaling, network analysis, correspondence analysis, and lattice analysis.

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                                                              • Somers, Margaret R. 1999. The privatization of citizenship: How to unthink a knowledge culture. In Beyond the cultural turn: New directions in the study of society and culture. Edited by Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt, 121–161. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                Develops a historical approach for tracing the process of “concept formation.” Her empirical case is the development of what she calls “Anglo-American citizenship theory.” Takes a relational and narrative approach to the structure of meaning and sketches how beliefs develop and come to be taken for granted.

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                                                                The Culture-Structure Connection

                                                                A legacy of both Marx’s and Durkheim’s theorizing is the idea that culture “reflects” social structure. While sociologists have largely moved beyond embracing straightforward reflection theories, the relationship between culture and structure is a perennial interest because it is so central in understanding social change. As a literary critic, Williams addresses the culture-structure relationship mainly in view of artistic production (Williams 2005), but his general critique of a simplistic Marxian perspective is broadly informative. Wuthnow 1989 provides one of the most direct and sustained empirical critiques of reflection theories. The perspective taken in Mannheim 1936 on the sociology of knowledge maintains some core Marxian assumptions but broadens the scope beyond economic determinism. Kane 1991 and Hays 1994 both address the culture-structure relationship at the conceptual level. Friedland and Alford 1991 shifts the focus of analysis by focusing on the mutual constitution of social institutions by material practices and symbolic relations. The authors’ conception is broadly representative of an approach taken by recent empirical studies. Illustrative is the analysis in Fourcade 2009 of the evolution of economic knowledge in the United States, Britain, and France.

                                                                • Fourcade, Marion. 2009. Economists and societies: Discipline and profession in the United States, Britain, and France, 1890s to 1990s. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                  An impressive analysis of the evolution of economic knowledge in three countries during the 20th century. Conceptually, the book depicts the multifaceted relationships among expert knowledge, economic practices, and political institutions.

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                                                                  • Friedland, Roger, and Robert R. Alford. 1991. Bringing society back in: Symbols, practices, and institutional contradictions. In The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. Edited by Walter W. Powell and Paul J. DiMaggio, 232–263. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                    An influential piece that conceives of institutions as comprising both patterned practical activity and the symbolic configurations that render that activity meaningful. On this basis, it proceeds to identify some of the distinctive “institutional logics” in modern society—based on institutions such as democracy, Christianity, the nuclear family, capitalist markets, and state bureaucracy—and shows how they shape individual preferences and organizational interests.

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                                                                    • Hays, Sharon. 1994. Structure and agency and the sticky problem of culture. Sociological Theory 12:57–72.

                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/202035Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      This article seeks to clarify the definitions of and relationships among structure, culture, and agency. Particularly useful for tracing the ideological commitments implicit in various formulations and for showing how “culture” and “agency” are often conflated because of their mutual juxtaposition to “social structure” in much of social theory.

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                                                                      • Kane, Anne. 1991. Cultural analysis in historical sociology: The analytic and concrete forms of the autonomy of culture. Sociological Theory 9:53–69.

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                                                                        Intervenes in the debate over the relative autonomy of culture by introducing the distinction between “analytic” autonomy, which is based on a conceptual distinction, and “concrete” autonomy, which locates cultural patterns in their concrete historical context.

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                                                                        • Mannheim, Karl. 1936. Ideology and utopia: An introduction to the sociology of knowledge. New York: Harcourt.

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                                                                          The foundational text in the “sociology of knowledge.” Mannheim was heavily influenced by Marx, in that he contends that ideas are rooted in social existence and advanced by concrete groups. Yet he deviates from Marx by arguing that ideas are not simply vehicles of ideology and that groups other than economic classes are central in the development of ideas.

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                                                                          • Williams, Raymond. 2005. Base and superstructure in Marxist cultural theory. In Culture and materialism: Selected essays. By Raymond Williams, 31–49. New York: Verso.

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                                                                            Written by a Marxian literary theorist, this essay’s main objective is to move beyond overly simplistic Marxian views of culture. Williams’s more multifaceted view helps account for the emergence of alternative and oppositional forms of culture that deviate from the dominant mode. Originally published in 1973.

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                                                                            • Wuthnow, Robert. 1989. Communities of discourse: Ideology and social structure in the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and European socialism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                              This book squarely addresses the relationship between culture and social structure, using three broad ideological transformations as illustrative cases. Against reflection theories that posit a straightforward causal relationship between structural and ideological changes, Wuthnow advances a theory of “articulation” that examines the reciprocal relationship between the two. Notable for developing a three-stage theory of cultural change and for introducing the state as a key actor in ideological transformation.

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                                                                              Practice

                                                                              Since the 1980s, a productive strand of research has focused on cultural practices and culture in interaction. Ortner 1984 traces the rise of the interest in practice theory since the 1960s, and Sewell 2005 contends that understanding the linkages between cultural systems and cultural practices should be the central problematic in cultural sociology. In an analysis of firefighters, Desmond 2006 illustrates Bourdieu’s perspective on cultural practices by focusing on the development of the habitus. Swidler 2001 elaborates the author’s own perspective on how people use culture in her analysis of love and relationships. Eliasoph and Lichterman 2003 develops a theory of how small groups appropriate and transform culture through their collective practices. Fligstein 2001 develops a theory of strategic action that draws from practice theories rather than theories of rational action. While the aforementioned work takes 1980s-era practice theory as a central point of reference, exemplary studies of culture and action are not limited to this theoretical frame. Exemplary are studies of “emotional work” by Hochschild 1983 and idiocultures in small-group settings by Fine 1979.

                                                                              • Desmond, Matthew. 2006. Becoming a firefighter. Ethnography 7:387–421.

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                                                                                Provides a clear analytic discussion and straightforward empirical illustration of Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus as an internalized, subconscious disposition. Particular emphasis is given here to bodily dispositions.

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                                                                                • Eliasoph, Nina, and Paul Lichterman. 2003. Culture in interaction. American Journal of Sociology 108:735–794.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/367920Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  An important article about how groups receive and reconceptualize the elements of culture found in the broader social environment. Against overly deterministic views that assume that elements of culture are received by individuals in straightforward ways, the authors systematically describe the processes that lead small groups to appropriate and reassemble cultural messages. Central to their argument is the role played “group style” in contributing to meaning-making processes.

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                                                                                  • Fine, Gary Alan. 1979. Small groups and culture creation: The idioculture of Little League baseball teams. American Sociological Review 44:733–745.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/2094525Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Provides a well-drawn illustration of the micro-level sociology of culture in the social interactionist tradition. Proposes a fivefold framework through which elements of culture come to be adopted by a small group.

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                                                                                    • Fligstein, Neil. 2001. Social skill and the theory of fields. Sociological Theory 19:105–125.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/0735-2751.00132Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      In developing the concept of “social skill,” the article incorporates elements of instrumental logic and cultural competencies into theories of action. It also posits that social actions are best understood vis-à-vis their relevant institutional fields. Can be read as a micro-theoretical exposition of Friedland and Alford 1991 (cited under The Culture-Structure Connection).

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                                                                                      • Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 1983. The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                        A pathbreaking analysis in the sociology of emotions. Documents how emotional responses have been commercialized through the “emotional work” demanded by many professions. More broadly, it illustrates how social situations shape people’s emotional lives in ways that are consistent with more recent perspectives on cultural practices.

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                                                                                        • Ortner, Sherry. 1984. Theory in anthropology since the sixties. Comparative Studies in Society and History 26:126–166.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500010811Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Written by an anthropologist, but broadly addressing cultural analysis across disciplines, this article reviews the theoretical trends that led to the emerging interest in practice theory in the 1980s.

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                                                                                          • Sewell, William H. 2005. The concept(s) of culture. In Logics of history: Social theory and social transformation. By William H. Sewell, 152–174. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                            An essay by a leading scholar in the field which argues that the main analytic focus in cultural analysis should be the dialectical relationship between cultural systems and cultural practices.

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                                                                                            • Swidler, Ann. 2001. Talk of love: How culture matters. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                              An important follow-up to Swidler 1986 (cited under Contemporary Statements). Swidler provides a number of insights into how culture works in daily life and closes with an agenda-setting discussion of pressing issues in the study of culture. The core conceptual contribution is Swidler’s pragmatic view of culture, in which people use culture to solve problems where institutions do not serve as adequate guides for action.

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                                                                                              Belief and Cognition

                                                                                              Few questions may seem as central to the sociology of culture as why people think as they do. In an influential analysis, Berger and Luckmann 1966 outlines the processes through which perceptions of reality are social constructed. Carruthers and Babb 1996 illustrates the dynamics of social construction (and deconstruction) in a case study of perceptions of money and its value. The 1990s saw a cognitive turn in cultural sociology as the links between cognitive psychology and cultural sociology became more apparent. Zerubavel 1997 surveys the sociological approach to cognition. DiMaggio 1997 provides an incisive reading of findings in cognitive psychology and their relevance to cultural analysis. D’Andrade 1995 covers one of the central cognitive concepts that cultural sociology has imported—the notion of the “schema.” Two sustained empirical studies illustrate how these cognitive insights have been put to use: the study of the boundaries between “home” and “work” in Nippert-Eng 1996, and the analysis of cognition and narratives of violence in Cerulo 1998. From a related but distinct perspective, Martin 2002 examines the role cognitive authority plays in maintaining the coherence of beliefs.

                                                                                              • Berger, Peter, and Thomas Luckmann. 1966. The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Anchor.

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                                                                                                A contemporary classic in the discipline at large that takes a phenomenological perspective on the creation and maintenance of everyday knowledge. Examines how phenomena with clear social origins come to be seen as independent of social processes and thus taken for granted as “real.” Develops a three-stage dialectical model of externalization, objectification, and internalization though which this process can be apprehended

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                                                                                                • Carruthers, Bruce G., and Sarah Babb. 1996. The color of money and the nature of value: Greenbacks and gold in postbellum America. American Journal of Sociology 101:1556–1591.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/230867Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Uses an analysis of debates over money in 19th-century America to examine the social construction and deconstruction of beliefs and institutions. A careful empirical analysis of taken-for-granted social conventions.

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                                                                                                  • Cerulo, Karen A. 1998. Deciphering violence: The cognitive structure of right and wrong. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                    This innovative book provides evidence that institutionalized narratives of violence construct moral frameworks of right and wrong. Special attention is paid to narrative sequencing, both how stories about violence are shaped by powerful social conventions, and how these stories influence our cognitive understandings of violence in the world.

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                                                                                                    • D’Andrade, Roy. 1995. The development of cognitive anthropology. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                      Written by a cognitive anthropologist, the book’s central contribution is its summary of schema theory—an approach to understanding cognitive information processing—which has become influential in sociology. Also notable are its discussion of cultural representations, emotions, and motivation.

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                                                                                                      • DiMaggio, Paul. 1997. Culture and cognition. Annual Review of Sociology 23:263–287.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.263Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Summarizes key arguments and findings within cognitive psychology and draws out valuable implications for cultural sociology. It catalyzed the just-emerging cognitive turn in cultural analysis among sociologists.

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                                                                                                        • Martin, John Levi. 2002. Power, authority, and the constraint of belief systems. American Journal of Sociology 107:861–904.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/343192Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          This study examines the formal attributes of belief systems. One provocative argument is that the tightness of a belief system—that is, whether holding some belief implies holding or not holding other beliefs—is a function of cognitive authority. In the absence of such an authority, there is nothing inherent in the nature of particular beliefs to link one to another.

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                                                                                                          • Nippert-Eng, Christena E. 1996. Home and work: Negotiating boundaries through everyday life. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                            An empirically and conceptually rich sociological study of cognition that focuses on how employed (and often overworked) people draw the conceptual line between “home” and “work.” The author focuses both on diverse cognitive strategies used by individuals and on variations in boundary drawing across groups, calling into question any simple understanding of what people mean by “home” and “work.”

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                                                                                                            • Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1997. Social mindscapes: An invitation to cognitive sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                              Provides an accessible and enlightening survey of the sociological approach to cognition. Distinguishes between cognitive sociology, which examines thinking as a function of social group membership, and two other approaches: cognitive universalism and cognitive individualism.

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                                                                                                              Discourse

                                                                                                              Discourse is a prominent topic of inquiry within the sociology of culture, although the meaning of “discourse” can range from broad systems of thought to narrow linguistic statements. The analysis of “discursive formations” in Foucault 1972 holds wide-ranging importance in this literature. It examines the cultural conditions under which claims are seen as meaningful or true. Meyer, et al. 1997 takes an equally macroscopic approach to discourse in its discussion of globalization processes, but specifies mechanisms of discursive influence in ways that Foucault does not. The framing concept orients a significant strand of research on discourse. Snow, et al. 1986 examines how social movement entrepreneurs use frames in recruitment processes; Gamson and Modigliani 1989 examines the relationship between media frames and public opinion on policy debates; and Ferree, et al. 2002 examines how abortion is framed cross-nationally. Narrative is another key concept in studies of discourse. Polletta 2006 makes the case that narrative is important for understanding the dynamics of activism and protest. Somers 1994 theorizes the relational role that narrative plays in the social construction of identity. In a quantitative analysis, Mohr 1994 takes a kindred relational approach to meaning in a study of discourse roles.

                                                                                                              • Ferree, Myra Marx, William A. Gamson, Jurgen Gerhards, and Dieter Rucht. 2002. Shaping abortion discourse: Democracy and the public sphere in Germany and the United States. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511613685Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                A sophisticated cross-cultural analysis of discourse about abortion. Uses four distinct models of democratic engagement as criteria for evaluating empirical patterns of deliberation and participation. Also elaborates on the concept of “discursive opportunity structure.” Provides an exemplary methodological model for the analysis of discourse.

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                                                                                                                • Foucault, Michel. 1972. The archaeology of knowledge. New York: Pantheon.

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                                                                                                                  A seminal book in the analysis of discourse. Foucault’s main analytic concept is the “discursive formation”—the dense network of propositions and cultural associations that render statements meaningful. In contrast to structuralism, which views such relations as invariant and universal, Foucault’s intellectual project was to uncover the historically contingent discursive formations that create the conditions for meaning and truth. Invaluable conceptually, but frustrating for empirically minded analysts.

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                                                                                                                  • Gamson, William A., and Andre Modigliani. 1989. Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power: A constructionist approach. American Journal of Sociology 95:1–37.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/229213Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    A conceptual touchstone for studies of policy framing. Shows how political issues are framed by different interpretive packages, and outlines a theoretical and methodological framework for documenting these packages. Suggests that there’s a dialectical relationship between media frames and public opinion on policy issues.

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                                                                                                                    • Meyer, John W., John Boli, George M. Thomas, and Francisco O. Ramirez. 1997. World society and the nation-state. American Journal of Sociology 103:144–181.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/231174Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      An influential analysis of globalization processes. The authors argue that nation-states are increasingly influenced by a rationalized world culture rooted in scientific and professional authority that exerts its influence through global discourses.

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                                                                                                                      • Mohr, John W. 1994. Soldiers, mothers, tramps, and others: Discourse roles in the 1907 New York City Charity Directory. Poetics 22:327–357.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/0304-422X(94)90013-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        An exemplary analysis of discourse using formal quantitative models. The argument is based on a structural view of meaning, wherein the meaning of entities (in this case, the moral valuation of potential recipients of public assistance benefits) are mapped out on the basis of their relationship to other entities and their characteristics.

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                                                                                                                        • Polletta, Francesca. 2006. It was like a fever: Storytelling in protest and politics. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                          Elaborates the concept of narrative, distinguishes it from other types of discourse, and makes a strong case for its importance in political processes (especially social movement dynamics). Polletta illustrates her points in a number of well-drawn case studies.

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                                                                                                                          • Snow, David, E. Burke Rochford, Steven Worden, and Robert Benford. 1986. Frame alignment processes, mobilization and movement participation. American Sociological Review 51:464–481.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/2095581Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            An early and influential cultural analysis of social movement mobilization. Discusses the discursive framing strategies that social movement entrepreneurs use to align movement goals with the interests and values of potential recruits.

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                                                                                                                            • Somers, Margaret R. 1994. The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach. Theory and Society 23:605–649.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/BF00992905Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              A conceptually rich theoretical piece that integrates insights from studies of identity construction in politics and narrative analysis in the humanities to develop the idea of “narrative identity,” which suggests that identity has a fluid and fundamentally relational ontological status.

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                                                                                                                              Symbolism and Ritual

                                                                                                                              Following in the Durkheimian tradition, studies of culture often have symbolism or ritual at their core. Yet contemporary studies of ritual are as likely to examine their relation to power dynamics and group division as they are to examine their role in the creation or maintenance of solidarity. Bell 1992 thoroughly surveys the field of ritual studies, and Nelson 2005 provides a clear and straightforward analysis of ritualistic experience in a religious setting. Kertzer 1988 provides a valuable analysis of political ritual, focusing on power dynamics and social control. Wagner-Pacifici and Schwartz 1991 takes up one line of contemporary thinking, showing that ritual can provide solidarity without consensus. The analysis of Syrian governance in Wedeen 1999 shows how symbolism is used as a tool of social control. From a different perspective, the classic text Gusfield 1986 emphasizes the symbolic connotations of the law, arguing that political conflict is often generated by status groups seeking symbolic validation of their lifestyles through legislative victories. Collins 2004 examines the micro-foundations of ritual. He places emotions at the center of his sweeping reconstruction of ritual theory.

                                                                                                                              • Bell, Catherine. 1992. Ritual theory, ritual practice. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                Provides a thorough overview of the study of ritual in the social sciences, with particular emphasis on social control and the mechanisms though which rituals exert their influence.

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                                                                                                                                • Collins, Randall. 2004. Interaction ritual chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                  Provides a broad reconceptualization of ritual from the vantage point of micro-sociology. Argues that the mutual focus and shared emotional mood found in ritualized situations result in feelings of membership that are attached to cognitive symbols.

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                                                                                                                                  • Gusfield, Joseph R. 1986. Symbolic crusade: Status politics and the American temperance movement. 2d ed. Urbana and Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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                                                                                                                                    An influential study of political conflict. Based on Weber’s distinction between status and class (see Weber 1958, cited under Classic Statements ), the book makes the general argument that status groups seek legislative reforms that symbolically validate their lifestyle and values. People view the law as both expressive and instrumental. Originally published in 1963.

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                                                                                                                                    • Kertzer, David I. 1988. Ritual, politics, and power. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                      A valuable discussion of the role that symbolism and ritual play in politics. Argues that ritual can create solidarity in the absence of consensus, and includes insights about the political virtues of ambiguous symbolism.

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                                                                                                                                      • Nelson, Timothy. 2005. Every time I feel the spirit: Religious experience and ritual in an African American church. New York: New York Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                        A well-drawn case study of ritualistic practice and experience in an African American church.

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                                                                                                                                        • Wagner-Pacifici, Robin, and Barry Schwartz. 1991. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Commemorating a difficult past. American Journal of Sociology 97:376–420.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/229783Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          An innovative, mixed-method case study of commemoration, focusing on its symbolic and ritualized aspects. Critiques Durkheim’s view that symbolism and ritual foster consensus. Shows that some commemorative vehicles can represent an event without resolving its meaning.

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                                                                                                                                          • Wedeen, Lisa. 1999. Ambiguities of domination: Politics, rhetoric, and symbols in contemporary Syria. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                            Analyzes the use of symbolism by an authoritarian Syrian government as a means of eliciting compliance from skeptical citizens. Argues that by inundating the public with slogans and symbols, the regime habituated people to performing empty gestures of obedience, which subtly reinforced compliance.

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                                                                                                                                            Categories and Boundaries

                                                                                                                                            The creation and maintenance of categories and boundaries are basic processes in social life. Working within the Durkheimian tradition, Douglas 1966 provides a classic analysis of social classification, emphasizing the pervasive boundary between the “pure” and “impure” in all societies. In a similar theoretical vein, Zerubavel 1991 surveys a multitude of cases where people create mental distinctions among continua. Lamont and Molnar 2002 reviews a vast literature on boundaries across the social sciences, highlighting the processes through which symbolic (or mental) boundaries translate into social boundaries (between groups) that serve as the basis for inequality and conflict. Bryson 1996 and Edgell, et al. 2006 both map a social terrain in which boundaries serve as a basis for social exclusion. Gieryn 1999 documents the “boundary work” that professional scientists engage in to reinforce the cultural boundary between “science” and “non-science.” Steensland 2006 makes a case for the causal influence of cultural categories on policymaking. Rao, et al. 2005 engages in a relatively rare analysis of categorical change.

                                                                                                                                            • Bryson, Bethany. 1996. “Anything but heavy metal”: Symbolic exclusion and musical dislikes. American Sociological Review 61:884–899.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2096459Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              A creative study that shows that musical dislike is associated with negative feelings toward the groups associated with musical genres. People use musical taste to bolster the symbolic boundaries between themselves and those they dislike.

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                                                                                                                                              • Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and danger: An analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. New York: Routledge.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.4324/9780203361832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Drawing on the Durkheimian tradition, this classic study of classification practices explores the boundary between the pure and impure. Particularly valuable is Douglas’s analysis of the role that beliefs about symbolic pollution play in maintaining the moral order. Reprinted 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                • Edgell, Penny, Joseph Gerteis, and Douglas Hartman. 2006. Atheists as “Other”: Moral boundaries and cultural membership in American society. American Sociological Review 71:211–234.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  An illuminating mixed-method analysis that shows that Americans draw stronger moral boundaries against atheists in public and private life than against other minority or once-stigmatized groups. Religion is a marker of social citizenship, so many Americans feel that atheists reject the basis of moral solidarity in mainstream society.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Gieryn, Thomas F. 1999. Cultural boundaries of science: Credibility on the line. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                    A historical analysis that demonstrates that the boundaries between “science” and “non-science” are quite flexible. Scientists seek cultural authority and engage in “boundary work” to fend off ideological competitors that threaten it. Depending on their interests and the nature of the threat (e.g., religion, common sense, or “pseudo-science”), scientists can describe the nature and boundaries of science in a wide variety of convincing ways.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Lamont, Michèle, and Virag Molnar. 2002. The study of boundaries in the social sciences. Annual Review of Sociology 28:167–195.

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                                                                                                                                                      An informative survey of the study of boundaries across the social sciences. The authors discuss the difference between “social boundaries” and “symbolic boundaries,” and highlight findings from a host of research areas, include identity formation, race and ethnicity, sex and gender, knowledge and science, and communities and nations.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Rao, Hayagreeva, Philippe Monin, and Rudolphe Durand. 2005. Border crossing: Bricolage and the erosion of categorical boundaries in French gastronomy. American Sociological Review 70:968–991.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/000312240507000605Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        An all-too-rare analysis of changing patterns of cultural classification. The authors chart the breakdown of the strong boundary between classic and nouvelle cuisine in French cooking, and identify key patterns that typify categorical change.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Steensland, Brian. 2006. Cultural categories and the American welfare state: The case of guaranteed income policy. American Journal of Sociology 111:1273–1326.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/499508Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          A detailed historical analysis of the role that the widespread cultural distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” plays in the development of antipoverty policy. Makes a strong causal argument that cultural categories influenced political outcomes by shaping cognitive perceptions, discursive strategies, and patterns of program development.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1991. The fine line: Making distinctions in everyday life. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                            A succinct but thorough overview of how people mentally divide continua into categories. Particularly illuminating is the comparison between what Zeruvabel calls the “rigid mind” and the “fuzzy mind,” and his discussion of the sociological roots of each.

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                                                                                                                                                            Production

                                                                                                                                                            The production of culture perspective arose in the 1970s. Its animating idea, as the name indicates, was that culture doesn’t simply emerge organically from social life; it gets produced by entrepreneurs and organizations within particular institutional fields. Peterson and Anand 2004 surveys this perspective, with particular emphasis on the culture industries and technological production. Hirsch 1972 provides an early illustration of this perspective. DiMaggio 1982 blends a focus on organizational production with attention to status competition and the accumulation of cultural capital. Bourdieu 1993 broadens the analytic scope from culture-producing organizations and technologies to relations of exchange and competition between producers and consumers in “cultural fields.” Griswold 1992 shifts the focus toward theorizing the content of cultural products in light of production processes. Baumann 2001 looks at the production of discourse that legitimates new art forms. Beyond attention to the arts and cultural industries, where much of the empirical research on cultural production has been conducted, a more recent trend has coupled ideological production with research on social movements. Armstrong 2002 examines the production of a new “gay” identity by social movement activists in the 1970s and 1980s, and Weber, et al. 2008 documents how social movements create new markets for products by mobilizing cultural frameworks that shape supply and demand.

                                                                                                                                                            • Armstrong, Elizabeth A. 2002. Forging gay identities: Organizing sexuality in San Francisco, 1950–1994. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                              Uses the concept of organizational field to show how gay rights activists produced a new and coherent “gay” identity in the 1970s and 1980s. An innovative application of social movement theory to processes of ideological production.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Baumann, Shyon. 2001. Intellectualization and artworld development: Film in the United States. American Sociological Review 66:404–426.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/3088886Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Though squarely located in the production of culture perspective, this article extends it by examining the production of a legitimating discourse that validated film as an art form in the mid-20th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1993. The field of cultural production. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A highly influential collection that brings together Bourdieu’s major writings on art, literature, and culture. Especially noteworthy is Bourdieu’s elaboration of his theory of the “cultural field.” He shows that notions of value and judgment are specific to fields, and contends that the cultural field, like all fields, is penetrated by power relations, premised on status hierarchies, and rife with positional struggles.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • DiMaggio, Paul. 1982. Cultural entrepreneurship in nineteenth century Boston, part 1: The creation of an organizational base for high culture in America. Media, Culture and Society 4:33–50.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/016344378200400104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Shows the role of affluent status groups in shaping cultural fields and creating cultural institutions—such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra—in order to demonstrate their high social standing, monopolize valued cultural goods, and establish hegemonic definitions of high culture.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Griswold, Wendy. 1992. Writing on the mud wall: Nigerian novels and the imaginary village. American Review of Sociology 57:709–724.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2096118Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Using Nigerian novels as an illustrative case, the article documents how depictions of rural life in Africa have been shaped by production imperatives within the publishing industry. More broadly, it shows how global literary production systems influence the aesthetic content of creative goods.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Hirsch, Paul M. 1972. Processing fads and fashions: An organizational-set analysis of cultural industry systems. American Journal of Sociology 77:639–659.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1086/225192Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        An influential early example of the production of culture perspective. Uses concepts from the contemporaneous industrial sociology literature to examine the production of consumer products in three cultural industries.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Peterson, Richard A., and N. Anand. 2004. The production of culture perspective. Annual Review of Sociology 30:311–334.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110557Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          This article, written by a founder of the production of culture perspective, surveys the main ideas found in this approach, summarizes key findings, and addresses criticisms.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Weber, Klaus, Kathryn L. Heintze, and Michaela DeSoucey. 2008. Forage for thought: Mobilizing codes in the movement for grass-fed meat and dairy products. Administrative Science Quarterly 53:529–556.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2189/asqu.53.3.529Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Examines the role played by social movements in creating market demand for new cultural products, in this case, grass-fed meat and dairy products. Movement entrepreneurs stimulated production, forged new identities among producers, and facilitated exchange patterns between producers and consumers by mobilizing resonant cultural codes based on authenticity, sustainability, and naturalness.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Reception

                                                                                                                                                                            The main idea behind studies of cultural reception is that the same cultural object can be interpreted in different ways. Reception studies document these patterns and seek to explain them in terms of the attributes of the object and the characteristics of the receiver. Griswold 1987 examines the reception of fiction among elites in three countries, Liebes and Katz 1990 documents cross-national reception in popular media among everyday citizens, and Shively 1992 examines film reception in a single country across racial groups. Radaway 1991 discusses the role that fiction plays in the lives of women in reading groups. Beisel 1993 devotes attention to theorizing the nature of the object itself. Schudson 1989 offers a conceptual typology for understanding objects’ cultural power. Tavory and Swidler 2009 blends semiotic analysis with reception analysis to look at how semiotic codes shape cultural practices.

                                                                                                                                                                            • Beisel, Nicola. 1993. Morals versus art: Censorship, the politics of interpretation, and the Victorian nude. American Sociological Review 58:145–162.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2095963Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              The author goes beyond examining variation in cultural reception to illuminate why some interpretations of cultural objects become more compelling than others. She argues that interpretive claims resonate when they articulate with existing cultural schemas and reinforce the social identities of in- and out-groups.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Griswold, Wendy. 1987. The fabrication of meaning: Literary interpretation in the United States, Great Britain, and the West Indies. American Journal of Sociology 92:1077–1117.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/228628Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Against the view that cultural products have a stable meaning, Griswold provides evidence that they have multiple meanings and contends that meaning inheres in the relationship between product and receiver. Her empirical case is the reception of the same West Indian writer’s novels in three countries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Liebes, Tamar, and Elihu Katz. 1990. The export of meaning: Cross-cultural readings of “Dallas.” New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A cross-cultural study examining how non-American audiences perceive imported American media. The authors find that groups read their own preoccupations (morality, politics, social order) into the same cultural object, thus imbuing it with distinct forms of meaning and significance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Radaway, Janice A. 1991. Reading the romance: Women, patriarchy, and popular literature. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Offers compelling insights into how cultural products play an important role in the lives of individual readers and in the collective imagination of small groups.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Schudson, Michael. 1989. How culture works: Perspectives from media studies on the efficacy of symbols. Theory and Society 18:153–180.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Focuses on attributes of the cultural product that influence reception, rather than on features of the social environment. Attributes include retrievability, rhetorical force, resonance, institutional retention, and resolution.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Shively, JoEllen. 1992. Cowboys and Indians: Perceptions of western films among American Indians and Anglos. American Sociological Review 57:725–734.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2096119Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        This quasi-experimental study provides evidence that different groups impute different meanings to the same cultural object. More broadly, it addresses the issue of how minority groups reinterpret and appropriate society’s dominant ideologies.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Tavory, Iddo, and Ann Swidler. 2009. Condom semiotics: Meaning and condom use in rural Malawi. American Sociological Review 74:171–189.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/000312240907400201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          A good example of the dialectical view of system and practice that Sewell 2005 (cited under Practice) calls for. Shows how publicly available semiotic codes constrain individuals’ ability to shape the meaning and symbolism of condom use. But people can also manipulate these cultural codes to send their own social signals.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Politics

                                                                                                                                                                                          A variety of approaches to cultural analysis can be seen in the study of politics. Some studies focus on the political culture of civil society, while others explore the role that culture plays in social activism and institutional politics. Luker 1984 sheds light on the debate over abortion by elaborating the worldviews on both sides of the issue. Eliasoph 1998 takes a cultural perspective on the question of why Americans express apathy toward politics. Gamson 1992 documents the ways that ordinary citizens draw on a variety of cultural resources to make sense of pressing social issues. The essays collected in Johnston and Klandermans 1995 survey cultural approaches to the study of social movements. Gould 2009 provides a sustained look at the role that emotions play in social activism. The essays collected in Steinmetz 1999 outline the role culture plays in state formation and development. Steensland 2008 outlines three distinct ways that cultural categories, political symbolism, and expert knowledge influence the policymaking processes. Skrentny 1996 highlights the role that taken-for-granted assumptions and legitimacy concerns play in constraining the policy options available to policymakers.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Eliasoph, Nina. 1998. Avoiding politics: How Americans produce apathy in everyday life. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511583391Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            An intellectually creative study of why people tend to be apathetic toward politics. Eliasoph subverts the common sense notion that apathy is natural by showing instead how apathy is actively produced in everyday life. The study also sheds light on the cultural boundaries of what people feel is legitimate public discourse, which tends toward the local and the self-interested.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Gamson, William A. 1992. Talking politics. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Based on an innovative use of focus groups, the book examines how ordinary citizens talk about political issues. One finding is that people draw from three different cultural resources to make sense of issues: media representations, folk wisdom, and their own experience. Gamson argues that if issues are framed in resonant ways, they can activate political consciousness and mobilize people into action.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Gould, Deborah B. 2009. Moving politics: Emotion and ACT-UP’s fight against AIDS. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                A thoroughly documented book that marks the leading edge of research on the role that emotions play in social movements. Drawing from Bourdieu, Gould develops the idea of the “emotional habitus,” argues that it is an important element of political action, and shows how it is shaped and nurtured though social movement practices.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Johnston, Hank, and Bert Klandermans, eds. 1995. Social movements and culture. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Though somewhat dated, this collection of essays still provides a solid introduction into the ways that cultural analysis has been incorporated into social movements research. Key conceptual themes include power, identity, and discourse both inside and outside movement boundaries.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Luker, Kristin. 1984. Abortion and the politics of motherhood. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    An illuminating analysis of the worldviews of activists on both sides of the abortion debate. Luker finds that views of abortion are shaped by assumptions about gender, sexuality, work, and parenting. Conflicts over abortion are based in part in contestation over conflicting views of motherhood, which in turn are rooted in the social location of the activists.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Skrentny, John D. 1996. The ironies of affirmative action: Politics, culture, and justice in America. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      An innovative study of policymaking that imports ideas from organizational analysis into studies of politics. Emphasizes the role that legitimacy concerns and taken-for-granted assumptions play in constraining the options available to policymakers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Steensland, Brian. 2008. The failed welfare revolution: America’s struggle over guaranteed income policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        A closely argued case study of the various ways in which culture influences political outcomes. Makes three general arguments about the role played by cultural categories, the symbolic dimension of policies and their multiple meanings, and the production of new cultural understandings as a by-product of political debate and policy formulation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Steinmetz, George, ed. 1999. State/culture: State-formation after the cultural turn. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          This collection of essays surveys a number of distinct approaches to incorporating cultural analysis into studies of the state. Particularly illuminating is Steinmetz’s introductory essay. One thing that distinguishes many of the pieces from earlier culturally informed analyses is their constitutive view of cultural processes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Social Stratification

                                                                                                                                                                                                          A common assumption in cultural analysis, particularly prior to the 1960s, is that culture is an integrative force in society. While this is still a prominent viewpoint, work on culture and stratification examines how culture generates and perpetuates inequality. In an early empirical study along these lines, Willis 1977 argues that working-class youths are socialized into subcultures that inhibit social mobility. The landmark analysis of cultural taste and class reproduction by Bourdieu 1984 is now the canonical text in this area. Most subsequent work on culture and inequality engages with it in one way or another. Bourdieu 1986 provides a clear summary of his thinking on the relationship between three types of capital—economic, social, and cultural—and the role they play in stratification processes. Work by Peterson and Kern 1996 and Lamont 1992 takes a Bourdieusian perspective while challenging key elements of his argument. Beisel 1997 and Lareau 2003 both place the family at the center of their analyses of culture and class reproduction. Sayer 2005 looks at the moral experience of class inequality.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Beisel, Nicola. 1997. Imperiled innocents: Anthony Comstock and family reproduction in Victorian America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            An insightful analysis of moral reform movements at the turn of the 20th century. Shows that moral crusades were motivated by concerns about family reproduction and intimately related to processes of class formation. Places family squarely at the center of class reproduction.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              A highly influential study of social class and cultural taste. Based on extensive analysis of quantitative data in France, the book theorizes and documents the correlation between socioeconomic status and aesthetic judgment. Bourdieu’s argument that class background and cultural tastes are homologous has spawned a great deal of research on class and culture.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. Forms of capital. In Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education. Edited by J. G. Richardson, 241–258. New York: Greenwood.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A concise summary of Bourdieu’s views of multiple forms of capital. Discusses economic capital, social capital, and cultural capital, and spells out how they relate to one another.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Lamont, Michèle. 1992. Money, morals, and manners: The culture of the French and the American upper-middle class. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An exemplary comparative study of class-based cultural boundaries. Beyond developing the notion of symbolic boundaries theoretically, Lamont shows that the criteria by which upper-middle-class men in France and the United States draw boundaries between themselves and members of other classes vary systematically across economic, moral, and lifestyle-based dimensions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Lareau, Annette. 2003. Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A deeply researched and accessible analysis of how family origins shape later economic life chances. Compares child-rearing practices across social classes and shows that the cultural dispositions instilled in children by higher-status parents provide them with more valuable tools for success in mainstream social institutions like school and the workplace.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Peterson, Richard A., and Roger M. Kern. 1996. Changing highbrow taste: From snob to omnivore. American Sociological Review 61:900–907.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2096460Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A short but important empirical piece. Develops the notion of the cultural “omnivore” and provides evidence that high-status Americans not only have more omnivorous (i.e., wide-ranging) cultural tastes than others, but also that they have become more omnivorous over time.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Sayer, Andrew. 2005. The moral significance of class. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511488863Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A valuable reflection on the subjective experience of class inequality, focusing on the moral dimension. Provides a sympathetic critique and extension of Bourdieu’s habitus concept (Bourdieu 1990, cited under Contemporary Statements).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Willis, Paul. 1977. Learning to labor: How working class kids get working class jobs. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A classic ethnographic study of class and culture in England that sheds valuable light on processes of social reproduction. Shows how the subculture of working-class young men channels them into working-class jobs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Social Networks

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A good deal of scholarship on culture and social networks embraces observations from Simmel 1971 (cited under Classic Statements) on the relationship between social mentalities and networks of affiliation. The ambitious synthesis of thinking on social relations and identities in White 1992 has catalyzed a productive vein of scholarship. Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994 surveys research on social networks and argues that it inadequately addresses issues related to culture and agency. Mische 2008 offers a sustained and conceptually rich analysis of the interpenetration of culture and social networks within fields of political activism. Pachucki and Breiger 2010 reviews related work and proposes directions for future research. Along different lines, both Erickson 1996 and Lizardo 2006 critically engage Bourdieu’s ideas about the linkage between cultural capital and social networks. Smilde 2005 and Munson 2008 both explore the causal relationship between beliefs and social relations; they make somewhat competing arguments about which factor holds causal primary.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Emirbayer, Mustafa, and Jeff Goodwin. 1994. Network analysis, culture, and the problem of agency. American Journal of Sociology 99:1411–1454.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1086/230450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            An influential article arguing that methodological advances in social network analysis have outpaced conceptual advances. The authors take particular note of network analysts’ neglect of culture and agency, which inhibits the understanding of network formation, reproduction, and change. They outline an agenda that focuses on cultural narratives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Erickson, Bonnie H. 1996. Culture, class, and connections. American Journal of Sociology 102:217–251.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1086/230912Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Takes a critical approach to Bourdieu’s discussion of social class and culture because it neglects the influence of social networks. Erickson argues that even among the higher classes, variety in cultural resources is more useful in occupational settings than familiarity solely with high-class culture. She further contends that variety in cultural resources comes from diversity in social network connections.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Lizardo, Omar. 2006. How cultural taste shapes personal networks. American Sociological Review 71:778–807.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100504Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The default assumption among network analysts is that social networks shape patterns of cultural consumption, but that the relationship is not reciprocal. Using survey data on arts consumption and social network affiliation, Lizardo provides evidence that cultural tastes influence local social network relations. This extends Bourdieu’s theorizing about the conversion of cultural capital into social capital.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Mische, Ann. 2008. Partisan publics: Communication and contention across Brazilian youth activist networks. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This innovative analysis of social activism shows how styles of communication are influenced by relations and positions within and between overlapping organizations and groups. A good example of how “publics” are mutually constituted by culture and networks.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Munson, Ziad. 2008. The making of pro-life activists: How social movement mobilization works. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    An illuminating analysis of how people become activists in social movements. Contends that even in the case of the pro-life movement—which is presumably based upon clear and fiercely held attitudes—many activists are initially drawn in for relational as opposed to ideological reasons. Activists often join before they have strongly held views about abortion. A case study of social relations shaping cultural orientations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Pachucki, Mark A., and Ronald L. Breiger. 2010. Cultural holes: Beyond relationality in social networks and culture. Annual Review of Sociology 36:205–224.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.012809.102615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      An interesting review of recent work either located at or informing the intersection of cultural sociology and network analysis. Beyond the central idea that culture and networks are mutually constitutive, the review effectively draws out conceptual parallels between the social relations inherent in network analysis, and the relational conception of culture that draws from semiotics, narrative analysis, and poststructuralism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Smilde, David 2005. A qualitative comparative analysis of conversion to Venezuelan evangelicalism: How networks matter. American Journal of Sociology 111:757–796.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1086/497306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This analysis of religious conversion provides evidence that people convert in part because of their social network location, rather than simply because they are seeking a new set of beliefs. But it also provides evidence that potential converts intentionally insert themselves in social networks that put them “at risk” of conversion. Provides a good analysis of the interplay between culture, agency, and social network processes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • White, Harrison. 1992. Identity and control: A structural theory of social action. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An ambitious attempt to integrate thinking on social networks, social identity, and narrative into a unified theory of action. Has been instrumental in pushing research on culture and networks in a variety of productive directions. A challenging but rewarding exploration. Second edition, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Organizations and Institutions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Research located at the intersection of culture and organizations typically takes one of two directions. The first is the study of organizational culture, which mainly focuses on the cultural dynamics within a well-bounded organizational setting. Kunda 1992 provides a useful discussion of what organizational culture is, and shows how it is experienced by employees and used as a means of social control by managers. Vaughan 1996 develops a causal argument about the role of organizational culture. Vaughan argues that NASA’s organizational culture normalized deviant and risky practices and thereby facilitated a series of dubious decisions that lead to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Binder 2002 moves beyond the confines of a single organization. This comparative study of challenges to public school curricula argues that successful social movements frame their agendas in ways that resonate with the concerns of organizational administrators. The second line of research examines how organizations are shaped by and respond to aspects of the broader organizational environment. Of central importance in this line of research are the symbolic actions that organizations undertake to appear legitimate to outsiders. Meyer and Rowan 1977 develops many of the central insights that form the basis of this “neo-institutional” perspective in organizational analysis. Powell and DiMaggio 1991 collects a number of highly influential pieces in an important edited volume on neo-institutionalism. Hallett 2009 synthesizes some key insights from both the organizational culture and neo-institutional approaches in an ethnography of a public school.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Binder, Amy. 2002. Contentious curricula: Afrocentrism and creationism in American public schools. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A comparative analysis of two movements to change public school curricula. Combines organizational and cultural analysis to argue that the success of the Afrocentrist movement and the failure of the creationist movement depended on each group’s ability to frame its agenda in ways that resonated with the concerns of school officials.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hallett, Tim. 2009. The myth incarnate: Recoupling processes, turmoil, and inhabited institutions in an urban elementary school. American Sociological Review 75:52–74.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0003122409357044Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This article seeks a new direction for organizational analysis at the micro level. It blends the emphases on legitimacy and loose coupling among macro-oriented neo-institutionalists with the emphases on social interaction and meaning making highlighted by organizational ethnographers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Kunda, Gideon. 1992. Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                An insightful ethnographic account of the organizational culture of a high-tech company. Examines how culture is seen by management as an instrument of social control to enhance employee commitment, and how software engineers experience this culture.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Meyer, John W., and Brian Rowan. 1977. Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology 83:340–363.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/226550Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A foundational work in the neo-institutionalist perspective on organizations. Argues that organizational behavior is often driven by symbolic attempts to appear legitimate to actors within the broader organizational environment. Therefore “rational” action is based on maximizing legitimacy rather than maximizing efficiency or efficacy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Powell, Walter W., and Paul D. DiMaggio, eds. 1991. The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A widely read edited volume that collects some of the most influential writings from the neo-institutional perspective. Especially noteworthy is the introductory chapter by the editors, which outlines how changing views of culture in the discipline have shaped the cultural analysis of organizations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Vaughan, Diane. 1996. The Challenger launch decision: Risky technology, culture, and deviance at NASA. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Based on impressive archival and interview-based research and substantial theoretical sophistication, this book shows how the organizational culture at NASA normalized deviance and thereby contributed to a series of ill-advised decisions that led to the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle.

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