Jeffrey Alexander, known for his work in sociological theory, breaks new ground in Action and Its Environments. His emphasis here is directly empirical and normative. He builds models, develops classifications, makes definitions, and offers explanations. He also develops an historical and comparative perspective on modernity that allows political and moral issues to be considered in a fresh way. The book aims to bring action theory and structure theory back together by focussing on three central questions. First, how can the normative and material properties of social structures be interlinked? Second, can the conventional, creative and strategic dimensions of individual action be related to social structures? Third, what are conditions and limits of modern social and cultural differentiation? In answering these questions Alexander portrays the complex relationship between social movements, public opinion formation, social solidarity, and social change. A new model of the structure and dynamics of cultural systems is presented as well. Alexander succeeds in applying this emerging model to a fascinating variety of empirical topics.
He takes up issues of ethnic and national conflict, truth and distortion in the news media, the Watergate crisis, the moral responsibilities of universities, and the nature of war. Although this book stakes out new ground, in Action and Its Environments Alexander exhibits the same combination of insight and forceful argument that have won his earlier work high acclaim.
Jeffrey C. Alexander is Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles.
PrefaceAcknowledgmentsIntroduction Part I: The Problem StatedOne: Social-Structural Analysis: Presuppositions, Ideologies, Empirical Debates Part II: Structure, Action, and DifferentiationTwo: Durkheim's Problem and Differentiation Theory TodayThree: Core Solidarity, Ethnic Outgroup, and Social DifferentiationFour: The Mass News Media in Systemic, Historical, and Comparative PerspectiveFive: Three Models of Culture and Social Relations: Toward an Analysis of WatergateSix: The University and Morality Part III: The Micro-Macro LinkSeven: Social Differentiation and Collective Behavior (with Paul Colomy)Eight: The Individualist Dilemma in Phenomenology and InteractionismNine: From Reduction to Linkage: The Long View of the Micro-Macro Debate (with Bernhard Giesen) Part IV: The Problem RestatedTen: Action and Its Environments Index
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