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Meaning and Moral Order

Explorations in Cultural Analysis

Robert Wuthnow

Publication Year: 1989

Meaning and Moral Order goes beyond classical, neoclassical, and poststructural theories of culture in its attempt to move away from problems of meaning to a more objective concept of culture. Innovative, controversial, challenging, it will compel scholars to rethink many of the assumptions on which the study of ideology, ritual, religion, science, and culture have been based.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

In a previous volume (Cultural Analysis, 1984), several colleagues and I argued that some promising new directions in social scientific approaches to the study of culture were becoming evident. In surveying the work of four prominent theorists representing four quite different approaches—...

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CHAPTER ONE. Cultural Analysis

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pp. 1-17

The founders of sociology all recognized the importance of culture in social life. Emile Durkheim spent nearly fifteen years at the peak of his career investigating the beliefs and rituals of primitive religion in an effort to grasp the symbolic bases of moral community. Max Weber was concerned with...

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CHAPTER TWO. Beyond the Problem of Meaning

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pp. 18-65

Like any other academic discipline, sociology has its own distinctive traditions. Members of the discipline share certain experiences that come from having read the same books and discussed the same ideas. Everyone knows something about Max Weber or Talcott Parsons and has...

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CHAPTER THREE. The Structure of Moral Codes

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pp. 66-96

The problem of moral order, prominent in the classical tradition in the work of Durkheim, has in recent years also become a matter of broader interest. Questions about moral commitments to public responsibilities, changes in moral convictions, moral bases of self-worth, and the corrosive...

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CHAPTER FOUR. Ritual and Moral Order

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pp. 97-144

Mary Douglas has written that the term "ritual" has become "a bad word signifying empty conformity" (1970:19). In her view this is not only a mistaken but also an unfortunate understanding of the term. Modern society cries out for a sense of community, for an enlivened...

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CHAPTER FIVE. Moral Order and Ideology

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pp. 145-185

The idea of ritual being a symbolic-expressive aspect of social life suggests an analog for understanding the social role of ideology. If the moral order consists of definitions of the manner in which social relations should be constructed, then signals concerning these definitions...

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CHAPTER SIX. Social Selection Among Ideological Forms

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pp. 186-214

One purpose of examining ideologies in relation to the social environment is to account for part of the wide variation evident in ideological forms. As suggested in the previous chapter, ideologies are vastly diverse, but not as diverse in any given social setting as we might imagine...

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CHAPTER SEVEN. The Moral Basis of Cultural Change

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pp. 215-264

Theories of cultural change have emphasized broad evolutionary patterns. The two theories of cultural differentiation mentioned in Chapter 6, for example—those of Bellah and Habermas—are cast in terms of an explicit evolutionary framework. Others—Talcott Parsons and Niklas...

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CHAPTER EIGHT. The Institutionalization of Science

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pp. 265-298

Cultural forms are produced, selected in different social environments, and institutionalized. The process of institutionalization increases the likelihood that a particular cultural form will continue to be reproduced even if the environment changes. Through this process, culture ceases to...

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CHAPTER NINE. State Structures and Cultural Reform

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pp. 299-330

Although historical problems have been attracting renewed interest in sociology, many of the theoretical assumptions on which sociological models of historical processes are constructed still remain tenuous. This is particularly the case in studies of the relationship between social structure...

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CHAPTER TEN. Conclusion

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pp. 331-349

At the outset, distinctions were drawn among four levels of cultural analysis: subjective, structural, dramaturgic, and institutional. In the explorations that have been presented these distinctions have served as general guidelines. It remains to consider explicitly what has been discovered...


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pp. 351-377


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pp. 379-416

Name Index

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pp. 417-423

Subject Index

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pp. 425-435

E-ISBN-13: 9780520909250
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520066212

Page Count: 450
Publication Year: 1989