Relativní autonomie kultury v Alexanderově kulturní sociologii
THE RELATIVE AUTONOMY OF CULTURE IN ALEXANDER’S CULTURAL SOCIOLOGY
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This article offers a critical discussion of the concept of the ‘relative autonomy of culture’ that is central to Jeffrey C. Alexander’s cultural sociology. It shows that, in Alexander’s work, the relative autonomy of culture is conceptualised in two different ways: first, as an analytical autonomy that is part of a multidimensional model of social action, and second, as the formal autonomy of a semiotic system that dominates in the more culturalist strand of Alexander’s work. The author claims that Alexander’s attempt to move in his work beyond a merely analytical autonomy of culture towards a fuller view of autonomy brings mixed results. Both concepts of the relative autonomy of culture assert an internal logic of culture, but the semiotic variant offers a much more developed account of what its internal structure is. However, the drawback of the semiotic view is that it tends towards the position of an absolute autonomy of culture or cultural idealism, which is difficult to reconcile with an adequate view of agency. The related proposal, first formulated by Anne Kane and endorsed by Alexander, to distinguish between the analytical and the concrete autonomy of culture is internally contradictory, for once culture becomes concretely enmeshed with social life, culture’s autonomy dissolves. The central weakness of the concept of the autonomy of culture is identified as the insufficiently developed explication of the internal mechanism through which culture and action are linked. Social theory has to do more to combine an analytical conception of culture, situated within a multidimensional framework of action, with a semiotic view of cultural structures.
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