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Sociology and Mass Culture

Sociology and Mass Culture: Durkheim, Mills, and Baudrillard

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 145
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  • Book Info
    Sociology and Mass Culture
    Book Description:

    Cormack investigates the broad cultural significance and relevance of academic sociology by examining its on-going relationship with modernity and mass culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8004-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    It is a common, if not trite, observation that sociology and the social sciences in general are inextricably bound to the emergence of the modern era. The rise of sociology is typically accounted for both in terms of its apparent capacity to explain the radical social changes characterizing modernity (such as capitalism, industrialization, urban expansion, mass democracy, and cultural diversity) and in terms of its participation in the modern intellectual zeitgeist (including Enlightenment humanism, empiricism and positivism, Protestant rationalism, and possessive individualism). But as Emile Durkheim emphasizes, whilela science socialecomes into being with the abruptness of the new...

  5. Chapter One Modernity and the Problem of the Social
    (pp. 13-30)

    This discussion rests on the assumption that not just sociology, but ‘society’ itself arises from modernity. Or put another way, only with the modern era does the notion of society become essential to the explanation of the human experience. Hannah Arendt suggests that it is an anachronistic error and sloppy thinking of the worst sort to imagine that premoderns understood themselves through the notion of ‘society’ (1958). She contends, for example, that a long tradition of poorly translating ancient texts has led us to believe that the ancient Greeks employed the word ‘society’ in its modern sense. The convention of...

  6. Chapter Two Durkheim’s Manifesto
    (pp. 31-54)

    Durkheim serves this observation and warning to his reader on the first page of his preface toThe Rules of Sociological Method. He is, somewhat surprisingly, at least partially aligning himself with the ancient sophists, suggesting that because they recognize the inevitability of paradoxical findings they make better intellectual company than those who imagine the social world to be straightforward. Indeed, Durkheim tells his reader, before any of the specific rules of method are delineated, to expect paradox: literally,para-doxa, that which is beside or beyond received opinion. Hence, if the object of sociological interest is Durkheim’s text itself, one...

  7. Chapter Three Mills’s Promise
    (pp. 55-88)

    For C. Wright Mills, sociological ideas are not so much the tools of scientific inquiry as the features of an imaginative orientation characterizing, or potentially characterizing, post-Second World War American culture. As Mills has it, this imagination is emerging as ‘the major common denominator’ of his time; literally, the collective self-‘denomination’ or self-‘naming,’ which helps constitute the collective identity and logic of American popular thought. At this etymological level, Mills’s formulation of ‘sociological imagination’ shows its kinship with Durkheim’s ‘collective representation,’ as both concepts highlight the primacy of naming in the functioning of the group. And while ‘imagination’ appears to...

  8. Chapter Four Baudrillardʼs Silence
    (pp. 89-116)

    Considering the above quotation within the context of this discussion, one is at once struck by Jean Baudrillard’s apparent insistence, contra Durkheim and Mills, that the ‘ambiguous,’ ‘contradictory,’ and ‘imaginary’ nature of sociology’s interest weakens its case rather than constituting its representational condition. For Durkheim the social stood as modernity’s unique, incomplete, and necessarily paradoxical form of collective self-representation and self-scrutiny - a tension textually enacted in his internally contradictory manifesto experiment. For Mills the sociological imaginary functioned within popular and even mass discourse to remind us of the essentially Utopian and narrative basis of collective life - registered in...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 117-124)

    What does it mean that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attempted, near the end of the twentieth century, to withdraw the notion of society from our vernacular? Certainly, the most obvious explanation is that her political agenda required that she remove the state from public life, thus freeing capitalistic enterprise from regulation and releasing the government from financial responsibility towards its citizens. ‘Society’ in this context is simply the state. But Thatcher’s words do more than argue for the end of the welfare state. As a political rhetorician, Thatcher was famous for her use of concrete metaphors. The state, for...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 125-130)
  11. References
    (pp. 131-138)
  12. Index
    (pp. 139-144)