Jeffrey C. Alexander's research while affiliated with Yale University and other places

Publications (99)

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This chapter presents three interviews with three influential voices in the field of social movement and civil society studies, namely, those of Doug McAdam, Jeffrey Alexander, and Nina Eliasoph. They all share their perspectives on social movements’ role in society’s moral development, the role of morality internally in social movements, and the r...
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What are the conditions for establishing solidarity after a period of intensive and divisive social conflict—what Kant called a cosmopolitan constitution? In this essay, I argue that such a widened solidarity depends on establishing a relatively independent civil sphere, the effective functioning of whose institutions depend, in turn, on a shared s...
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This essay provides an intellectual history for the cultural turn that transformed the human sciences in the mid-20th century and led to the creation of cultural sociology in the late 20th century. It does so by conceptualizing and contextualizing the limitations of the binary primitive/modernity. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading think...
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As social theorists seek to understand the contemporary challenges of radical populism, we would do well to reconsider the febrile insights of the psychoanalytic social theorist Erich Fromm. It was Fromm who, at the beginning of the 1930s, conceptualized the emotional and sociological roots of a new ‘authoritarian character’ who was meek in the fac...
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No, I was in a major called social studies, you may have heard of that. It’s an interdisciplinary major, which includes political theory, social theory, applied studies, sociology, political science and history. I never took a sociology course until I was accepted to graduate school, so at Harvard, my last course I ever took was my first sociology...
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How can civil sphere theory conceptualize responses to international migration? The primordial contradictions of universalizing solidarity mean that “real civil societies” resist incorporating individuals and groups outside their core groups, whether they are religious, ethnic, regional, racial, and economic groups inside a national territory or im...
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The purpose of the article is to demonstrate that the civil spheres of Latin America remain in force, even when under threat, and to expand the method of theorizing democracy, understanding it not only as a state form, but also as a way of life. Moreover, the task of the authors goes beyond the purely application of the theory of the civil sphere i...
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"Given this moment of heightened xenophobia and nationalism, this book could not be more timely. Not only does it shed light on the underlying cultural processes that make some migrants ‘deserving’ while others get treated as undesirable burdens, it also helps identify the conditions that lead to successful mobilization on migrants' behalf. By brin...
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Identifying a shift away from a more humanistic approach in the sociology and political science practiced in the United States since the 1950s, Jeffrey Alexander seeks to recuperate an intellectual tradition of the social sciences that places the cultural meanings and subjective dimensions of social actions at the very centre of analysis, while sim...
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Scholarship on civil society in East Asia has suffered from a weak theorization in which civil society is generally defined as voluntary organizations that exist in the “third sector” outside the state and private sector. Civil Sphere Theory (CST) aims to describe and explain the moral codes and institutional foundations of democratic solidarity, m...
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The Civil Sphere in East Asia - edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander February 2019
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Cambridge Core - Political Sociology - The Civil Sphere in East Asia - edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander
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Civil Sphere Theory (CST) aims to describe and explain the moral codes and institutional foundations of democratic solidarity, as it manifests itself within a distinct social sphere. The civil sphere is a space, as much symbolic and aspirational as institutional and physical, within which people perform and enact democratic values, forming a commun...
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The ideology of Steven Bannon is not a reflection of today’s social problems and strains, but a contemporary version of a centuries-long culture structure. The ideology emerged in nineteenth-century reactions to the Enlightenment and its progressive carrier groups, and it was radicalized in the anti-democratic cultural and political movements of Eu...
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The 2016 U.S. presidential election revealed a nation deeply divided and in flux. This volume provides urgently needed insights into American politics and culture during this period of uncertainty. The contributions answer the election’s key mysteries, such as how contemporary Christian evangelicals identified in the unrepentant candidate Trump a h...
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Resumo A partir das categorias da sociologia cultural, o texto pretende analisar como Steve Bannon, considerado o principal ideólogo do governo de Donald Trump, vem construindo poderosas narrativas a partir de simplificações binárias do conflito político, purificando os grupos que encarnariam a “verdadeira América” - nacionalistas, brancos e cristã...
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This article develops a theory of “societalization,” demonstrating its plausibility through empirical analyses of church pedophilia, media phone-hacking, and the financial crisis. Although these strains were endemic for decades, they had failed to generate broad crises. Reactions were confined inside institutional boundaries and handled by intra-in...
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p> [Los años sesenta y yo: de la revolución cultural a la teoría cultural] ABSTRACT In this article, the author offers an approach to his personal and academic development during the 1960s and how they laid the foundations for his contributions in the field of sociology. Pointing out those years as a moment in which a tumultuous social conscien...
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Cambridge Core - Social Theory - The Civil Sphere in Latin America - edited by Jeffrey Alexander
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Resumo Neste ensaio seminal, Jeffrey Alexander apresenta algumas das bases de sua virada icônica. O giro analítico proposto se fundamenta em uma compreensão da materialidade como portadora de conteúdo estético e moral, o que é sintetizado na noção de consciência icônica: o processo em que um observador vincula a superfície estética de uma materiali...
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It is possible to look at radical social movements from the perspective of social performance theory; though, being wedded to nonsymbolic and realist methods, few contemporary social scientists would agree. Despite their immensely practical goals, the success of both Chinese Communists and American civil rights protesters depended on achieving perf...
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Resumo Sociólogos da cultura vêm desenvolvendo, desde 2000, perspectivas teóricas e aplicações empíricas da teoria da performance social, que tem como ponto de partida a atualização da obra tardia de Durkheim, somada a elementos da virada estética e da teoria do drama.. Essa abordagem refuta a interpretação econômica da ação desenvolvida por Marx,...
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Challenging reductionistic approaches to intellectuals that emphasize the so-called social origins of their ideas—the sociology OF culture approach—this essay proposes a cultural sociological approach that puts the search for meaning front and center. Intellectuals code their times in terms of sacred-good and profane-evil, and they provide narrativ...
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Civil Sphere Theory (CST) provides a more dynamic, cultural, and democratically oriented model of contemporary society than either conflict or modernization theory. Civil spheres expand and contract in contradictory ways. Utopian periods of utopian repair trigger defensive efforts that primordialize and exclude. Late 20th century civil repair gener...
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Contemporary elections are less about rational policies or even just desserts than they are melodramatic performances about who wears the white and who the black hat. Politics is about performing good versus evil in the dangerously shifting currents that create contemporary social scenes. Economics and poll numbers had Obama an underdog in 2012. Ho...
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Un trauma cultural se produce cuando los miembros de una colectividad sienten que han sido sometidos a un acontecimiento horrendo que deja marcas indelebles sobre su conciencia colectiva, marcando sus memorias para siempre y cambiando su identidad futura de manera fundamental e irrevocable. Si bien este concepto científico sugiere relaciones empíri...
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This collection of original essays brings a dramatically different perspective to bear on the contemporary 'crisis of journalism'. Rather than seeing technological and economic change as the primary causes of current anxieties, The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered draws attention to the role played by the cultural commitments of journalism itself....
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Cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways. While this new scientific concept clarifies causal relationships between previous...
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Recent technological change and the economic upheaval it has produced are coded by social meanings. Cultural codes not only trigger technological and economic changes, but also provide pathways to control them, allowing the democratic practices of independent journalism to be sustained in new forms. Even as they successfully defend their profession...
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The essays that follow in this Special Section were initially formulated as contributions to a forthcoming book, The Crisis of Journalism Reconsidered: Cultural Power (Alexander et al. 2015). They are its three pivotal essays, presenting the most theoretically developed and empirically grounded exemplifications of the cultural-sociological approach...
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Solidarity is a central dimension of social order and social conflict, yet it has largely been absent from influential theories of modern society. Most of the big thinkers, classical, modern, and contemporary, have conceived prototypically modern relationships as either vertical or atomized. Modernization is thought to have smashed affectual and mo...
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Avant-garde theatre is often invoked as the bellwether for a society that has become postdramatic - fragmented, alienated, and critical of efforts to create collectively shared meanings. A theatre whose sequenced actions have no narrative (so the story goes) mirrors a social world where the most conflictual situations no longer appear as drama but...
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Despite anxieties about the growing power of neo-liberalism, the crisis of the EU and the upsurge of right-wing political movements, it is important to recognize that utopian movements on the left have also in recent years been symbolically revitalized and organizationally sustained. This article analyses three recent social upheavals as utopian ci...
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Documenting the extraordinary potency and reach of the European backlash against multiculturalism, this essay provides a new theoretical model for explaining it. Rather than focusing primarily on demographic and institutional facts about Islamic immigration – such as education, wealth, participation and mobility – the author proposes a cultural-soc...
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This article introduces the reader to the current status of cultural sociology as a specific mode of inquiry. It first discusses the pre-history of cultural sociology, tracing its origins in the demise of Parsonian functionalism from the mid-1960s onward, the cultural turn in sociology through the 1980s, and the emergence of an increasingly confide...
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How did the Holocaust, an event marked by ethnic and racial hatred, violence, and war, become transformed into a generalized symbol of human suffering and moral evil, a universalized symbol whose very existence has created historically unprecedented opportunities for ethnic, racial, and religious justice? This cultural transformation has been achie...
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In the title to this conference we find the key words "public" and "intellectual." Both refer to separation and universality, and to the capacity for judgment that emerges from the status of being separate and the capacity for universalism. According to philosophical convention, the public is a space separated from the immediate, particularistic de...
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This book explains why the Holocaust has come to be considered the central event of the 20th century, and what this means. It debates how the Holocaust has evolved over the years, and the profound effects it will have on the way we envision the future. Presenting controversial work, and following up with challenging and equally provocative response...
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In his analysis of the Bible, entitled The Great Code, Northrop Frye1 observed the history of the Israelites to be an unstable one. First there was obscurity and marginality. Next, prophetic intervention renewed faith and solidarity. Thence came triumph and empire—but after that things would go wrong. Complacency produced decadence, fractious infig...
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Vertimas: Redakcijos kolegija dėkoja Jeffrey C. Alexanderiui (Jeilio universiteto Lillian Chaveson Saden vardo sociologijos profesoriui) už galimybę spausdinti žurnale Sociologija. Mintis ir veiksmas Mattei’aus Dogano fondo apdovanojimo kalbą, – tikėdamasi aktyvesnio bendravimo tarp JAV ir Lietuvos sociologų. Autoriaus parengtą pranešimo kalbą iš a...
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This article develops a non-reductive approach to celebrity, treating it as an iconic form of collective representation central to the meaningful construction of contemporary society. Like other compelling material symbols, the celebrity-icon is structured by the interplay of surface and depth. The surface is an aesthetic structure whose sensuous q...
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In 2008, we needed a hero. We still do. Political narratives are all about heroes, and never was it more plainly evident than in the 2008 presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain. Like all candidates, Obama and McCain worked to craft their own heroic narratives, from despair to redemption to, each hoped, glory. And sociologists wat...
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Common knowledge suggests that elections are won or lost based on demographics, finances, and other structural elements. Whether candidates win or lose, however, is a matter of action. Symbolic identification, metaphor, and an unfolding narrative—and how they are managed and interpreted in the flow of events—determine who will emerge victorious fro...
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The state is the source of coercion in modern societies, but politics and power are about much more than states. The state provides an umbrella for modern politics, but so does the civil sphere. Politics originates in the civil sphere; it aims to push state power in a certain direction, making it work on behalf of this end rather than another. Thes...
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This essay makes both empirical and theoretical claims. Empirically, it develops one of the first sociological approaches to the recently completed 2008 Presidential campaign in the USA. Theoretically, it offers a cultural‐sociological challenge to the kinds of instrumentalist, materialist, and institutionalist approaches that have been central to...
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From the Humanities to Cultural Sociology, VIA the Sociology of CultureCulture as StructureCulture and CritiqueThe Cultural Turn in Sociology: Empirical ManifestationsReinterpreting the ClassicsCultural Sociology: “New Classics”Further Theoretical Questions for Cultural Sociology: Reframing “Interpretation”Bibliography
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In the age of the `return to the empirical' in which the theoretical disputes of an earlier era seem to have fallen silent, we seek to excavate the intellectual conditions for reviving theoretical debate, for it is upon this recovery that deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of empirical social science depends. We argue against the all to...
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This article suggests an iconic turn in cultural sociology. Icons can be seen, it is argued, as symbolic condensations that root social meanings in material form, allowing the abstractions of cognition and morality to be subsumed, to be made invisible, by aesthetic shape. Meaning is made iconically visible, in other words, by the beautiful, sublime...
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This article examines a key question emerging from the strong program in cultural sociology — can art provide a window into social life? An examination of Giacometti's Standing Woman shows that art attempts to express cultural structures via immersion into and through the material surfaces of aesthetic form. Through an analysis of the iconic signif...
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In his massively influential work, Clifford Geertz crystallized core methodological and theoretical elements of a strong program in cultural sociology, a program that argues for a meaning-centered social science. If meaning is to be so central, then the theoretical tools that the humanities have developed to investigate art and language must become...
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This article proposes both a more cultural and a more sober-minded understanding of “globalization”. Recent discussions should be viewed as more aspirational than empirically descriptive. With the end of Cold War polarization, idealistic theories from Giddens to Beck have created the collective representation, "globalization," as an effervescent an...
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When it comes to issues of equality and redistribution, sociologists are particularly prone to think in anti-cultural terms. External, objective, and material forces are conceived as determining unequal distributions without reference to the wills of actors - via hegemony, domination, subordination. But if inequality is imposed by material and coer...
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Jeffrey C. Alexander brings together new and leading contributors to make a powerful and coherently argued case for a new direction in cultural sociology, one that focuses on the intersection between performance, ritual and social action. Performance has always been used by sociologists to understand the social world but this volume offers the firs...
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I make use of this reply to McLennan to offer an overall perspective on the development of my work, normatively, empirically and theoretically, and in its earlier neofunctionalist and later cultural-sociological phase. I argue that, despite periodic suggestions that my cultural sociology seeks to push sociology towards an absolute subjectivity, the...
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What does Durkheim mean for social science and social theory today? This is a deceptively simple question. One way to attempt an answer is to put a deconstructive twist on the standard sociological literature about the production of culture and knowledge. It is commonplace within that field to suggest that authors produce texts to send messages to...
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From its very beginnings, the social study of culture has been polarized between structuralist theories that treat meaning as a text and investigate the patterning that provides relative autonomy and pragmatist theories that treat meaning as emerging from the contingencies of individual and collective action—so-called practices—and that analyze cul...
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Simmel develops his concept of the stranger in an overly structural and reductionist manner. Contrary to Simmel's suggestion, there is an indeterminate relation between structural exclusion and the attribution of strangeness. After showing that 'the stranger' must be rethought in a cultural-sociological way, this essay demonstrates an alternative a...
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Traumas are purely happening which break a person or collective actor's sense of well-being. Cultural trauma is an experiential, scientific concept, signifying new meaningful and casual relationships linking earlier dissimilar events, structures, perceptions, and actions. In contrast to this, a new scientific concept enlightens an emerging field of...
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In this collaboratively authored work, five distinguished sociologists develop an ambitious theoretical model of "cultural trauma"-and on this basis build a new understanding of how social groups interact with emotion to create new and binding understandings of social responsibility. Looking at the "meaning making process" as an open-ended social d...
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After introducing a perspective on terrorism as postpolitical and after establishing the criteria for success that are immanent in this form of antipolitical action, this essay interprets September 11, 2001, and its aftermath inside a cultural-sociological perspective. After introducing a macro-model of social performance that combines structural a...
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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 patter...
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This chapter examines the relation between cultural trauma and collective identity. It explains that cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks on their group consciousness, and that the scientific concept of cultural trauma illuminates an emerging domain of...
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A partir de l'evolution du concept de multiculturalisme, de son ambition universaliste a la revendication de differences et d'identites, l'A. conteste la vision alarmiste des conservateurs qui voient le multiculturalisme comme une menace a la cohesion sociale americaine. Il propose un modele alternatif d'incorporation dans les systemes sociaux cont...
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The following is simultaneously an essay in sociological theory, in cultural sociology, and in the empirical reconstruction of postwar Western history. Per theory, it introduces and specifies a model of cultural trauma - a model that combines a strong cultural program with concern for institutional and power effects - and applies it to large-scale...
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In the wake of Marxism, the decline of socialism and the debacle of state Communism, critical social theory must be saved from the narrow letter of the Frankfurt School, though not from its utopian spirit. Criticizing the totalizing packages of modernist utopias, this article tries to sustain the idea of utopia and its connection to critical social...
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Over the last decade, I have been trying to help fashion a new kind of critical social theory, one that can contribute to the “new theoretical reflection and interpretation of social contestation and political action” (Cohen 1982:xii) that such post-Marxist thinkers as Cohen and Seyla Benhabib (1986) called for two decades ago but that has seemed l...
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This article introduces this issue of American Behavioral Scientist in several ways: (a) It provides background information about the conference on which the issue is based, (b) it provides an intellectual and historical context for the idea of the public representation of culture and history in American society, (c) it develops several substantive...
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Nuestro propósito en esta introducción es dar una visión a largo plazo del debate entre las escalas micro y macro. Mas que parafrasear los ensayos que siguen, que ya de por sí son poderosos argumentos, proporcionaremos un marco histórico y teórico dentro del cual podrían ser leídos. Al proporcionar tal marco, esperamos llamar la atención hacia el s...

Citations

... Previous perspectives, I have suggested, have overstated institutional stability and coherence, as they concern themselves with a shrinking object of study-the legacy news organizations and their professional inhabitants. The stable social structure once theorized by Parsons (1951) is no longer in harmonic functional balance, and the universal solidarity around cultural codes, assumed more recently by Alexander (2016) and colleagues, doesn't seem consistent with the current existential crisis. Norms have proven more fragile than anticipated, and we've seen how institutions can be corrupted from within (and "zombified") while leaving the external form intact. Shifting realignments have made boundaries between traditional fields less distinct, but this is often not well reflected when fixing the definition of the institution as co-terminous with media organizations. ...
... Yet, the "modernization" of cannabis has not removed the taboos, rituals, performances or mystery and aura associated with the drug. On the contrary, we would argue that cannabis research now, more than ever, is in need of a "cultural turn" (Alexander, 2021) to uncover the "cultural repertoires" (Lamont & Fleming, 2005), "cultural bricolages" (Levi-Strauss, 1966), or "cultural toolkits" (Swidler, 1986) that underpin the practices that guide both the use of cannabis and the informal and formal sanctioning of the drug. ...
... However, the context-dependent nature of social capital means that availability of contacts and network resources might differ between situations (Cohen 1999). Particularly, the social capital helpful for education may not be equally beneficial in the labour market, and vice versa. ...
... Crises such as extended pandemics are experienced in everyday moments of embodiment and social relations, threatening ontological security and enacting cultural trauma (Alexander and Smith, 2020). As the crisis unfolded, complex assemblages of risk/ contamination/place/humans had to be negotiated, often at breathtaking speed. ...
... Por consiguiente, Alexander (2020) propone que la manifestación del ejercicio real de la esfera civil en su conjunto se da a partir de que la comunidad expansiva pueda unirse a través de su historicidad y establecer una constitución cosmopolita, donde todos tengan el derecho a la utilización de la superficie terrestre sin exclusiones y violencia. Sin embargo, es claro que en las sociedades democráticas actuales esta pretensión es compleja y difícil de llevar a la realidad, ya que esferas civiles como la colombiana se caracteriza por su heterogeneidad y pensar en una convivencia pacífica, armoniosa y solidaria requiere que se dé la voluntad social y gubernamental para establecer elementos comunes culturales, sociales, económicos y políticos que lo permitan. ...
... Simply put, a social movement is an organized effort to create social change (Sukmana, 2016). Hence, a social movement is a group of people who take collective action in a loose and organized manner in a non-institutional way to produce a change in society so that it can be the result of social change and can deliver the next social transformation (Hapsari, 2016;Sztompka, 2004). ...
... This brings us to the final conclusion that J o u r n a l P r e -p r o o f appreciating diversity on the societal level would relate positively with the multicultural state as a vessel of renewal instead of destruction. This is highlighted by the civil sphere theory which manifests in cross-group solidarity efforts (Tognato et al. 2020). ...
... Scholars who have discussed Taylor such as CraigCalhoun (1991) and HartmutRosa (1998) mainly draw on Sources of the Self (1989), or The Secular Age(2007), which has been widely discussed(Alexander, 2021;Calhoun, 2008;Gorski, 2016;Künkler et al., 2018). A reason for the oversight of may be that Taylor elaborated his hermeneutics the first time expansively in The LanguageAnimal (2016) which is yet to find its way in the social sciences.Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. ...
... Большинство исследований травмы как социокультурного явления опираются на идеи Р. Айерманна, Дж. Александера и П. Штомпки [7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]. Травма трактуется как один из способов формирования коллективной идентичности, обладающий своим инструментарием социального конструирования. ...
... JA: Ever since my first, four-volume book in -1983(Alexander, 2014, I have been very critical of scientism and positivism, and I have continued to publish occasionally on this theme, for instance, arguing that humanities should be as much a source for our theory and methods as are the natural sciences (Alexander, 2019b). I believe that there is a vast difference between the human and the natural sciences and that sociology is a moral science. ...