The Meanings of Social Life

The Meanings of Social Life : A Cultural Sociology

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In The Meanings of Social Life , Jeffrey Alexander presents a new approach to how culture works in contemporary societies. Exposing our everyday myths and narratives in a series of empirical studies that range from Watergate to the Holocaust, he shows how these unseen yet potent cultural structures translate into concrete actions and institutions. Only when these deep patterns of meaning are revealed, Alexander argues, can we understand the stubborn staying power of violence and degradation, but also the steady persistence of hope. By understanding the darker structures that restrict our imagination, we can seek to transform them. By recognizing the culture structures that sustain hope, we can allow our idealistic imaginations to gain more traction in the world. A work that will transform the way that sociologists think about culture and the social world, this book confirms Jeffrey Alexander's reputation as one of the major social theorists of our more

Product details

  • Paperback | 312 pages
  • 154 x 228 x 26mm | 439.99g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0195306406
  • 9780195306408
  • 658,326

Review quote

"This is a powerful claim on behalf of reuniting what has been separated since the beginning of the sociological venture: shapes of acts and their meanings, descriptions of human deeds and their comprehension, the this-worldly and the transcendental, religion and reason, values and facts, the poetry of culture and the prose of the mundane. This claim has been made with the hope of liberating the knowledge of things human from its service to a power that too often struggles to liberate itself form the ethical bonds of humanity. A commanding claim that makes for fascinating reading."-Zygmunt Bauman, author of Modernity and the Holocaust "Boldly, often brashly, challenging almost every cultural analyst in sight, Jeffrey Alexander here states and illustrates his strong program for analysis of culture as a coherent, autonomous social realm. The Holocaust, Watergate, computers, and contemporary American society at large all provide starting points for Alexander's distinctive reflections on social experience."-Viviana A. Zelizer, author of The Social Meaning of Money "Jeffrey Alexander views culture as causal, not merely a reflection of social structure, but as embodied and embedded in institutions and personalities, rather than as coming down from on high. The final chapter about the ways in which we social scientists have thought about the world in which we live is alone worth the price of the book. A powerful argument."-Robert Bellah, coauthor of Habits of the Heart "Whether Alexander is considering high theory, the Holocaust, or computerization, the reader is treated to a mind at work that breathes originality and brilliance. A commanding...compelling performance! "-Steven Seidman, author of Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life "This book is important for the clarity and liveliness with which it communicates the core ideas and real innovations cultural sociology offers the discipline, and I hope that it's widely read."-Lyn Spillman, Newsletter of the Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Asssociation "The Meanings of Social Life is an intellectual tour de force that cements Jeffrey Alexander's reputation as a paradigmatic thinker in cultural as well as theoretical sociology."-Mabel Berezin, Newsletter of the Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Asssociation "Alexander has succeeded to a remarkable degree in establishing his distinctive cultural theory and empirical research program as a collective enterprise. Indeed... one can fairly speak of the existence of... an Alexander School-of cultural sociology."-Mustafa Emirbayer, Thesis Eleven "Alexander effectively positions meanings at the center of a cultural form of public sociology that is concerned with symbolic codes, their social production, and their distribution through carrier groups and social movements The Meanings of Social Life provides the urtext for a new cultural framing of sociology."-John R. Hall, Contemporary Sociologyshow more

About Jeffrey C. Alexander

Jeffrey C. Alexander is Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University, and co-Director of the Center for Cultural more

Table of contents

Introduction: The Meanings of (Social) Life: On the Origins of a Cultural Sociology ; 1. The Strong Program in Cultural Sociology: Elements of a Structural Hermeneutics (with Phillip Smith) ; 2. On the Social Construction of Moral Universals: The "Holocaust" from War Crime to Trauma Drama ; 3. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity ; 4. A Cultural Sociology of Evil ; 5. The Discourse of American Civil Society (with Phillip Smith) ; 6. Watergate as Democratic Ritual ; 7. The Sacred and Profane Information Machine ; 8. Modern, Anti, Post, and Neo: How Intellectuals Explain "Our Time" ; Notes ; References ; Indexshow more

Rating details

21 ratings
3.52 out of 5 stars
5 19% (4)
4 38% (8)
3 24% (5)
2 14% (3)
1 5% (1)
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