The Meanings of Social Life: A Cultural Sociology

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Oxford University Press, Sep 18, 2003 - Social Science - 312 pages
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 day.
 

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Contents

The Strong Program in Cultural Sociology Elements of a Structural Hermeneutics with Philip Smith
11
On the Social Construction of Moral Universals The Holocaust from War Crime to Trauma Drama
27
Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity
85
A Cultural Sociology of Evil
109
The Discourse of American Civil Society
121
Watergate as Democratic Ritual
155
The Sacred and Profane Information Machine
179
Modern Anti Post and Neo How Intellectuals Explain Our Time
193
Notes
229
References
271
Index
293
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About the author (2003)

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

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