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Society as Semiosis

Neostructuralist Theory of Culture and Society


Risto Heiskala

Action theory, phenomenological sociology, pragmatism and (post)structuralism are often seen as mutually exclusive currents of meaning analysis. This book shows that these traditions are actually complementary, and builds a neostructuralist synthesis on this finding. It also outlines the implications of this cultural theoretical synthesis for the field of social theory. What emerges is a variant of the theory of practice, habit and structuration of society. It shares the contemporary common belief that social theory should be based on cultural theory. Its distinctive mark is that this is done in systematic semiotic terms within a conception which provides mediation between the two most influential schools of semiotics, namely Charles Peirce’s American pragmatism and Ferdinand de Saussure’s French structuralism.
Contents: Critique of Action Theory and Phenomenological Sociology: Meaning and Rational Action in Weber’s Sociology – Quarrelling Heirs: Parsons and Schutz – Meaning and Intentional Acts: Schutz’s Phenomenological Sociology – Ethnomethodology: Garfinkel’s Reconstruction of Schutz and Parsons – From Intentional Action to Structuralism – Neostructuralist Theory of Culture: Saussure’s Structuralism Reconstructed – The Specificity of the Saussurean Approach – Neostructuralist Semiotics – Towards a Neostructuralist Social Theory: The Levels of Cultural Analysis – Beyond the Culture/Society Split – Symbolic Signs, Socialization, and the Sacred – Power – Conclusion.