The Discourse of American Civil Society

Jeffrey C. Alexander and Philip Smith

in The Meanings of Social Life

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195160840
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199944156 | DOI:
The Discourse of American Civil Society

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This chapter analyzes the discourse on civil society in the U.S. It explains that civil society consists of actors and the relationships between actors and institutions, and that at the heart of the culture of American civil society is a set of binary codes that discuss and interrelate these three dimensions of social-structural reality in a patterned and coherent way. It suggest that the culture of civil society should be conceived as a system of symbolic codes that specify good and evil because conceptualizing culture in this way allows for causal autonomy by virtue of its internal semiologics and also affords the possibility for generalizing from and between specific localities and historical contexts.

Keywords: civil society; U.S.; culture; binary codes; symbolic codes; semiologics; causal autonomy

Chapter.  15302 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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