The Meaning of Culture: Moving the Postmodern Critique Forward

The Meaning of Culture: Moving the Postmodern Critique Forward

The Meaning of Culture: Moving the Postmodern Critique Forward

The Meaning of Culture: Moving the Postmodern Critique Forward

Synopsis

In review of the major theoretical approaches to culture, Allan argues that the structure of culture has been overemphasized and affect-meaning neglected. This approach to studying culture has as its basis the social construction of meaning and reality and emphasizes micro-level processes and emotion.

Excerpt

The work of social scientists and philosophers has progressively moved through the labyrinth of human reality. From Plato's notion of the ultimate Idea to Durkheim's argument concerning social reality sui generis, we have taken our experience of reality to be peculiar and a phenomenon to be explored and explained. For the social scientist, a major breakthrough came with the work of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. In the Social Construction of Reality, Berger and Luckmann demonstrate that our reality is the result of the externalization of human nature into the environment, its objectification through institutionalization, and the subsequent internalization of this produced culture. They, like Alfred Schutz, put special emphasis upon the objectification process: it is only as culture is institutionalized that it can appear to us as a separate and viable reality. For Schutz, it is the existence of a broadly accepted language system, built upon sets of typifications and stocks of knowledge, that produces a feeling of "factness" about our culture and a sense of intersubjectivity. For Berger and Luck- mann, it is the institutionalization of ultimate meanings through religion that, in the end, stave off the nightmare threat of chaos: a meaningless existence in a meaningless universe. Thus, through the work of social constructivists and phenomenologists, we found that cultural reality can confront us as a separate entity having its own ontology and facticity only because we work collectively to objectify our subjective and social experiences of the world.

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