Can Schemas Motivate?

In an influential paper entitled “Schemas and Motivation,” the cognitive anthropologist Roy D’Andrade once remarked on the curious lack of relation (with reference to anthropological theory) …between culture and action. Of course, one can say ‘people do what they do because their culture makes them do it.’ The problem with this formulation is that …

Culture and Action, or Why Action Theory is not Optional

The main reason social scientists study culture is because of the (sometimes implicit) hypothesis that culture “affects” or “causes” action (Swidler 2001a, 2001b; Vaisey 2009). If culture was a causally inert cloud of stuff floating around doing nothing, it would not be worth anyone’s attention. That is, cultural theory and …

Ontic Monism versus Pluralism in Cultural Theory

As discussed in a previous post, bundling ontic claims about culture have been used to argue that culture is a single kind of thing and demarcate the boundaries of cultural kinds. This can be referred to as ontic monism about cultural kinds. Thus, a theorist might say, following Kroeber (1917), …

Cultural Kinds, Natural Kinds, and the Muggle Constraint

Cultural Kinds as Natural Kinds A key implication of our previous discussion on cultural kinds (see here, here, here, and here). Is that cultural kinds should be thought of as being in the same ontic register as the other kinds studied in the physical and special sciences. These include biological, …

Culture “Concepts” as Combination of Ontic Claims

Throughout the history of cultural theory, a number of “culture concepts” have been proposed. The standard way of thinking about these is as competing notions bound to forever stand in conflict. But it is possible to see the various proposals as more than purely “conceptual” or “definitional.” Instead, using the …

The Relation(s) Between People and Cultural Kinds

How do people relate to cultural kinds? This is a big topic that will be the subject of future posts. For now, I will say that the discussion has been muddled mostly because, in the history of cultural theory, some cultural kinds have been given excessive powers compared to persons. …

Cognition and Cultural Kinds (Continued)

Culture and Cognition: Rethinking the Terms of the Debate As noted in the previous post, very few sociologists today doubt that insights from cognitive science are relevant for the study of cultural phenomena. In that respect, DiMaggio’s (1997) call to consider the implications of cognition for cultural analysis has not …

Internalization and Knowledge What

As discussed in a previous post, the sociological discussion of internalization has been traditionally dominated by an emphasis on processes in which other people, via the mediation of artifacts, serve as the primary conduits via which cultural-cognitive kinds are internalized. In that respect, sociologists do not seem to make too …

Internalized Cultural Kinds

Internalization used to be a central concept in cultural theory in sociology, anthropology, psychology, and related fields. It was the theoretical centerpiece of Talcott Parsons’s blend of anthropological culture theory, sociological functionalism, and Freudian psychoanalysis ensuring the “interpenetration” of the cultural, social, and personality systems (Alexander, 2014; Kuper, 2009; Lizardo, …

Varieties of Implicitness in Cultural-Cognitive Kinds

In a previous post, I addressed some issues in applying the property of “implicitness” to cultural kinds. There I made two points; first, unlike other ontological properties considered (e.g., concerning location or constitution), implicitness is a relational property. That is, when we say a cultural kind is implicit, we presume that there is …

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