Download A Society of Signs? by David Harris PDF

By David Harris

An creation to present debates round the subject matters of tradition, id and way of life. Such debates frequently start with the statement that we are living in a "society of signs". positive factors comprise: precis and demanding dialogue of a few simple ways in social concept and cultural research; key readings of a few of the paintings of writers together with Barthes and Giddens; stories of labor in additional conventional components, for instance, the sociology of identification and the embedding strategy present in social lifestyles; and suggestion on additional studying.

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I want to end this chapter with a sketch of one approach which will be well known to sociology students—the ‘structuration theory’ of Anthony Giddens. Again, this is a huge project, extending over decades, and we can do no more than provide a quick overview here—Craib (1992a) offers a readable discussion (and a list of critical discussions of Giddens’s work), and the best single piece by Giddens himself is probably still the chapter in Giddens (1982), or the later essay in Bryant and Jary (1991).

However, we might fairly easily anticipate a common ‘technical’ theme in these critiques: can a synthesis of this kind really proceed without doing violence to some of the specificity of the positions being synthesised (Gane) or perhaps even just being collected (Craib), or without managing some rather strained categorisations (lumping together ‘rules’ and ‘resources’, for example—see Dallmayr)? The latter point is also taken up very effectively by Thompson (1984) in a sympathetic critique (in Chapter 3 we examine Thompson’s own developments from Giddens’s position).

Social poetics If the kinds of alternative commentaries recommended were evidently superior to the ways in which sociologists have proceeded, we could simply switch to them. However, I find the alternatives based on the ‘textual’ metaphor to be extremely variable and often to exhibit the same kinds of problems we have just discussed. Postmodernists, for example, suggests Jameson (1992), simply turn their backs on the problems of ‘applying’ theories to actual concrete events. Not for them the problems of relating general theories of economic bases to accounts of cultural superstructures, for example, as in Marxism.

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