The Meaning of Culture: Moving the Postmodern Critique Forward

By Kenneth Allan | Go to book overview

3
The Moral Perspective and the Social Construction of Affect-Meaning

The very act of congregating is an exceptionally powerful stimulant. Once the individuals are gathered together, a sort of electricity is generated from their closeness and quickly launches them to an extraordinary height of exaltation. Every emotion expressed resonates without interference in consciousnesses that are wide open to external impressions, each one echoing the others. The initial impulse is thereby amplified each time it is echoed, like an avalanche that grows as it goes along.

-- Émile Durkheim ( 1912/ 1995, pp. 217-218)

The central issue of this book is the felt reality of culture. In the last chapter, I argued, with Berger and Luckmann, that cultural reality varies according to its level of objectification through perceived magnitude: as the number of people, length of time, and size of geographic space increase, so does the perceived objective existence of any culture. It is precisely at this point that postmodernism can argue that people's experience of reality is fragmented, schizophrenic, and emotionally flat: in postmodernity each of the objectification elements are decreasing--culture is localized with few people adhering to it for short durations of time.

But it is not necessarily the case that the lived experience of reality decreases. There are certain social and social-psychological effects of living in a culturally produced world that tend to create pressures at

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