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The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim

by Philip Smith Jeffrey C. Alexander

Long recognised as a foundational figure in the development of social scientific thought, Emile Durkheim's work has been the subject of intense debate over the years. This authoritative and comprehensive collection of essays re-examines the impact of Durkheim's thought, considering the historical contexts of his work as well as evaluating his ideas in relation to current issues and controversies. Eminent authorities in the field have contributed to this up-to-date overview, giving the reader - both students and academics - a chance to engage directly with leading figures in the field about contemporary trends, ideas and dilemmas. This volume reflects the cross-disciplinary application of Durkheim's theories and will interest scholars of anthropology, political science, cultural studies and philosophy, as well as sociology. This is a landmark volume that redefines the relevance of Durkheim to the human sciences in the twenty-first century.

Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity

by Neil J. Smelser Jeffrey C. Alexander Ron Eyerman Bernard Giesen Piotr Sztompka

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 dialogue in which strikingly different social narratives vie for influence, they outline a strongly constructivist approach to trauma and apply this theoretical model in a series of extensive case studies, including the Nazi Holocaust, slavery in the United States, and September 11, 2001.

Meaning and Method

by Jeffrey C. Alexander Isaac Reed

Culture is increasingly important to American social science, but in what way? This book addresses the core issues of the sociology of culture-questions about the social role of meaning, along with those about the methods sociologists use to study culture and society-in a manner that makes clear their relevance to sociology as a whole. Part I consists of essays by leading cultural sociologists on how the turn to culture has changed the sociological study of organizations, economic action, and television, and concludes with Georgina Born's methodological statement on the sociology of art and cultural production. Part II contains a highly original, and at times heated, debate between Richard Biernacki and John H. Evans on the appropriateness of abstract and quantifiable coding schemes for the sociological study of culture. Ranging from the philosophy of science to the concrete, practical problems of interpreting masses of cultural data, the debate raises the controversy over the interpretation of culture and the explanation of social action to a new level of sophistication.

Staging Solidarity

by Jeffrey C. Alexander Tanya Goodman Ronald Eyerman

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a modern social drama that enabled the nation's apartheid past to be constructed as a cultural trauma, and by doing so created a new collective narrative of diversity and inclusion. The TRC relied primarily on testimonies from victims and perpetrators of apartheid violence who came forward to tell their stories in a public forum. Rather than simply serving as data for setting the historical record straight, this book shows that it was not only the content of these testimonies but also how these stories were told and what values were attached to them that became significant. Goodman argues that the performative nature of the TRC process effectively designated the past as profane and simultaneously imagined a sacred future community based on democratic idealism and universal solidarity.

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