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Chapter 5 The Cultural Formations of Modern Society. Robert Boccock. Presented by Hope 11 November 2005. Introduction. 1. What the term ‘culture’ means and examining its use as a sociological concept?

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chapter 5 the cultural formations of modern society

Chapter 5The Cultural Formations of Modern Society

Robert Boccock

Presented by Hope

11 November 2005


1. What the term ‘culture’ means and examining its use as a sociological concept?

2. How did the concepts of classification and structuralist approach are used to analyze cultural formations and phenomena?

3. How does Max Weber argue that religion is a central role in determining cultural formation?

4. The cultural change in Nineteenth Century, there is a growing disillusion with the scientific and rationalist culture, and many disciplines show the significance of values and beliefs as constituents of culture.

defining culture
Defining Culture

Five main definitions of the term ‘culture’

  • Culture=cultivating the land, crops, animals
  • Culture= the cultivation of the mind; the arts; civilization
  • Culture = a general process of social development; culture as a universal process (the Enlightenment conception of culture)
  • Culture = The meanings, values, ways of life (cultures) shared by particular nations, groups, classes, periods
  • Culture = the practices which produce meaning; signifying practices
analysing culture
Analysing Culture
  • Bear the 5th definition of culture in mind –”signifying practices”

Structuralsim looks at the symbolic structure of an event in order to discover its cultural meaning.

  • Introduce two structuralism Pioneers (French Anthropologists)
    • Ferdinand de Saussure (1875-1913)
    • Claude Levi-Strauss (1908)
  • Reassessment of Emile Durkheim’s work (1858-1917)
    • How and What did Durkheim develop a whole new approach to the understand of culture?
    • Collective Representations
    • Primitive Classification
    • Structuralist Developments
roots of the structuralism
Roots of The structuralism

*the classifying system, The structure of a culture, “collective representations” ,

analysing culture7
Analysing Culture
  • Collective Representations

What and how did Durkheim develop a whole new approach to the understand of culture?

    • His analysis of the religious beliefs and rituals in these societies
      • Collective representations
        • Representations are are the major symbolic components of culture which are collectively produced, reproduced, transmitted and transformed.
        • Cultural belief, moral values, symbols and ideas
        • A symbolic world of meanings within which a cultural group lives. 238-239
        • Symbolic identification-Totem of the group (239)
analysing culture8
Analysing Culture
  • Primitive Classification
    • How does the idea of collective representations’ work within a culture?
      • By the categories, a process of cultural classification in ‘primitive’ societies.
      • Totem is the key, and it classificatory map of the society (kingship)
      • Both he (analysis of classification system) and Levi-Strauss (analysis of symbolic structures) use the method of ‘terms of pairs.” (242-3)
analysing culture9
Analysing Culture
  • Durkheim’s Classification System
    • Religious experience is not based upon illusions, but upon concrete social, collective, ritual actions or practices
    • Sacred and Profane (243a)
  • Levi-Strauss’ Symbolic Strucrtures
    • Terms of pairs
    • ‘savage mind’ –thinking by classifying things into binary oppositions

*Royal family British as an example of cementing divergent groups (245)

analysing culture10
Analysing Culture
  • Structuralist Developments
    • Using collective representations and primitive classifications to analyzing the symbolic structure of events (differences and relations)
    • Apply the binary opposites as a central feature of all classifying systems to every cultural phenomena. The object of structuralist analysis was frozen in time (Synchronic.)
    • Many studies was applied with the above basic structuralist method of analysis.
    • The underlying code for deciphering the phenomenon
    • Such a structuralist method can be applied to any cultural pattern and in any historical period.
    • Example (246-7)
culture and social change
Culture and Social Change
  • Bear the 4th definition of culture in mine
  • The culture played in the great historical “transition from a religious to a secular culture”
  • How to understand the process of secularization which is typical of the formation of modern culture?
  • Max Weber’s extensive analysis

emphasize the role which culture and religion play in major historical


    • Religion and the rise of capitalism
    • Orientations of the World Religions
      • 4 types
    • Western culture, science and values
religion and the rise of capitalism
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism
  • Binary oppositions
    • Adventurer capitalism
    • Rational, peaceable bourgeois capitalism (vocation)
  • Rational Capitalism emerged from
    • The spirit of Christian asceticism (250)
    • Increasingly secularized cultural values process
    • Seventeenth Century Calvinist puritan sects
    • Protestant ethic
orientations of the world religions
Orientations of the World Religions
  • Binary opposition method
    • Oriental (eastern) religions and Occidental (western) religions
    • Harmony with the natural world (mysticism) and seeking mastery over the world (asceticism)
  • Religious intellectuals and high social roles
    • ‘Inner-worldly’ suggest turning toward the world (merchants, politician rulers. )
    • ‘Other worldly’ refer to the roles which are removed from everyday tasks (nuns.)
orientation of the world religions

Type 1

Inner-worldly mysticism

Type 2

Other worldly mysticism

Type 3

Inner-worldly sceticism

Type 4

Other-worldly asceticism

Orientation of the World Religions

Social Roles

Refer to chart in p. 254

western culture science and values
Western Culture, Science and Values
  • Modernity can not resolve the problem of value and of how we ought to live.
  • Science and modern capitalism were tow aspects of a long historical process.The process began in earnest with Enlightenment.
  • Such Rationality process dominate more and more areas of life in western culture.
  • Weber’s pessimistic tone (p. 256) and two other same claims. (p.263)
the cost of civilization
The Cost of Civilization
  • Rationalization can not make the world meaningful.
    • Increasing Rationality
    • Disenchantment with the Modern World
    • Civilization and its discontents
    • The Frankfurt School
    • Conclusion
increasing rationality
Increasing Rationality
  • Tension between rationality (sociology and capitalism) and traditional culture (religion)
  • Equality
  • Existential question, suffering issue.

The role of culture supposes to give meaning to,

or help people make sense of life.

  • Theodicies’ Job (258)
    • The intellectuals
    • The main classes in the rest of the society *
  • Aesthetic and Erotic (259)
disenchantment with the modern world
Disenchantment with the Modern World
  • Rationalization increasing did not produce the increase in overall human happiness.
  • The Enlightenment project weakens of the hold of custom, magic, superstition and other supernatural taboos over which the philosophers rejoiced.
    • Weber call it “a process of de-magnification” “the disenchantment of the world”sociologists call it “secularization”
  • Increase pessimistic views of the ‘cost’ to modern civilization
    • Romantic poets in Britain
    • Karl Max (1818-83) calls the cultural condition a process of ‘estrangement’, or ‘alienation’. (p.262)
    • Emile Durkheim argued the increasing disorder behaviors and isolation.(263)
    • Nietzche “nililism”(263)
two important critiques of modern
Two Important Critiques of Modern
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Frankfurt School
  • Civilization and its discontents
    • War neurosis, the hostility people feel towards this modern civilization. Instead of increased happiness, there is an increase in neurosis. There are echoes here of Marx’s notion of alienation and estrangement.
    • The unconscious captured the important of the irrational.
      • sexuality
      • Destruction aggression (274)
frankfurt school
Frankfurt School
  • Same theme rehearsed already by both Weber and Frued.
  • The rise of fascism in Germany in 1930
  • What had gone wrong?
    • False Dream!
    • The Reason (p265)
    • The Hope (266)
    • The Solution (266)
  • Intellectuals’ responsibilities
    • Academic neutrality is dangerous. (267)
    • Value-judgments are important.
    • Moral vigilant is essential.
    • Value-neutrality is a necessary methodological stance for sociologists, but it is never enough on its own.
    • No others but intellectuals must continue to think about, write about, human life.