Chapter

Communicative Institutions

Jeffrey C. Alexander

in The Civil Sphere

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780195162509
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199943364 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162509.003.0020
Communicative Institutions

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Civil society should be understood not merely in terms of contrasting symbolic categories but as structures of feeling, the diffusely sensed obligations and rights that represent, and are at the same time evoked by, contrasting solidary ties. Collective representations of such social relationships are broadcast by civil society institutions specializing in communicative, not regulative tasks—by the mass media, public opinion polls, and voluntary organizations. The structures of feeling that such institutions produce must be conceptualized as influence rather than authoritative control, or power in a more structural sense. They institutionalize civil society by creating messages that translate general codes into situationally specific evaluations and descriptions. This chapter analyzes these organizations of influence. It begins by discussing the lifeworld of public opinion which anchors communicative and regulative institutions alike.

Keywords: civil society; solidary ties; structures of feeling; mass media; public opinion polls; voluntary organizations

Chapter.  14323 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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