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Strengthening the Strong Program in Cultural Sociology

Sun, August 12, 12:30 to 1:30pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Level 5, Salon G

Abstract

The paper addresses the emergence of cultural sociology as a major undertaking in both theoretical and empirical research in sociology over the past few decades, and especially the proposal for a "strong program" inc cultural sociology, that is, one that avoids reductionism in its various forms, developed by Jeffrey Alexander and Philip Smith. We argue that the strong program can be strengthened by incorporating the distinctions among four subsystems of culture, cognitive, expressive, moral-evaluative (or ideological), and constitutive or religious, and attending to the needs for each subsystem to be studied by somewhat different methods. The body of the paper discusses the specific methods necessary for interpretation or understanding (Vderstehen) of each of the subsystems of culture. The conclusion emphasizes that the approach viewing all of culture as "text" is too simple and hence that hermeneutic methods are insufficient for comprehensive analysis of cultural systems.

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