In The Meanings of Social Life , Jeffrey Alexander presents a new approach to how culture works in contemporary societies. Exposing our everyday myths and narratives in a series of empirical studies that range from Watergate to the Holocaust, he shows how these unseen yet potent cultural structures translate into concrete actions and institutions. Only when these deep patterns of meaning are revealed, Alexander argues, can we understand the stubborn staying
power of violence and degradation, but also the steady persistence of hope. By understanding the darker structures that restrict our imagination, we can seek to transform them. By recognizing the culture structures that sustain hope, we can allow our idealistic imaginations to gain more traction in the world.
A work that will transform the way that sociologists think about culture and the social world, this book confirms Jeffrey Alexander's reputation as one of the major social theorists of our day.
Jeffrey C. Alexander is Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University, and co-Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology.
Introduction: The Meanings of (Social) Life: On the Origins of a Cultural Sociology ; 1. The Strong Program in Cultural Sociology: Elements of a Structural Hermeneutics (with Phillip Smith) ; 2. On the Social Construction of Moral Universals: The "Holocaust" from War Crime to Trauma Drama ; 3. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity ; 4. A Cultural Sociology of Evil ; 5. The Discourse of American Civil Society (with Phillip Smith) ; 6. Watergate as Democratic Ritual ; 7. The Sacred and Profane Information Machine ; 8. Modern, Anti, Post, and Neo: How Intellectuals Explain "Our Time" ; Notes ; References ; Index