Article

Sociology of Culture

Brian Steensland

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0055
Sociology of Culture

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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.

Article.  11116 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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