Compositional pluralism, causal history, and the concept of culture

In previous posts (see here and here) I made the case for the importance of specifying underlying philosophical claims when conceptualizing culture and cultural phenomena. First, I distinguished between what I called epistemic and ontic claims about culture (following the philosopher Mark Rowland’s 2010 similar argument with regard to the …

Three Types of Ontic Distinctions About Culture

Following up on a previous discussion, in this post, I argue that it is useful to differentiate between three types of ontic claims about culture that have typically been made in the history of cultural theory. Typically, these ontic claims are made with the goal of isolating the “nature” of …

Types of claims about culture and cultural phenomena

A relatively neglected task of cultural analysis (or cultural/culture theory) concerns itself with specifying the nature (and therefore expected properties) of the sorts of entities and processes that can be said to be cultural. Most serious cultural theorists do this, but they are seldom explicit to note that this is …

Practice Theory versus Problem-Solving

In 2009, Neil Gross argued that the critique of action as a calculation of means to ends, which had been ongoing for at least the prior thirty years, had been successful. Not only that, the insistence that “action-theoretical assumptions necessarily factor into every account of social order and change and …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part II

Beyond the Content-Storage Metaphor The underlying neural structures constitutive of habitus are procedural (Kolers & Roediger, 1984), based on motor-schemas constructed from the experience of interacting with persons, objects, and material culture in the socio-physical world (Gallese & Lakoff, 2005; Malafouris, 2013). Habitus affords the capacity to learn because we …

Habitus and Learning to Learn: Part I

In this and subsequent posts, I will attempt to revise, reconceptualize and update the concept of habitus using the theoretical and empirical resources of contemporary cognitive neuroscience and cognitive social science. I see this step as necessary if this Bourdieusian notion is to have a future in social theory. Conversely, …

Cultural Cognition in Time, from Memory to Imagination

Over the past few years, I have been thinking about the concept of imagination. It emerged out of my efforts to understand the generational change in public opinion about same-sex marriage in the U.S. when it became clear to me that young and old simply imagined homosexuality and same-sex marriage in …

Embodied knowledge vs. flesh and blood

As DiMaggio (1997) originally noted, most sociological theories of action make assumptions about the nature of cognition even as they dismiss any explicit discussion of cognition in favor of “social” explanation. Thinking about how culture comes to be taken up by the mechanisms of cognition and how it influences action …

Beyond Good Old-Fashioned Ideology Theory, Part Two

In part one, I examined two recent frameworks for understanding ideology (Jost and Martin) and explained how both serve as alternatives to the good old-fashioned ideology theory (GOFIT). Ultimately, I concluded that Martin’s (2015) model has specific advantages over Jost’s (2006) model, though the connection between ideology and “practical mastery …

Where Did Sewell Get “Schema”?

Although there are precedents to using the term “schema” in an analytical manner in sociology (e.g., Goffman’s Frame Analysis and Cicourel’s Cognitive Sociology), it is undoubtedly William Sewell Jr’s “A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation” published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1992 that really launched the career of …

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