Cultural movements and the sociology of culture

The case of political consumerism

Authored by: Sam Binkley

Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  July  2010
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415474450
eBook ISBN: 9780203891377
Adobe ISBN: 9781134026159

10.4324/9780203891377.ch62

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Abstract

In what follows, I seek to clarify the term “cultural movements,” which is often used in a casual and imprecise manner. Cultural movements are not well understood in the field of cultural sociology, and the term is often applied anecdotally to such processes as artistic or style trends, to social changes of various kinds, or to activist movements. In fact, the imprecise use of this term is partly attributable to the considerable attention paid to two neighboring sociological concepts—cultural change and social movements (Rucht and Neidhardt 2002; Melucci 1984; Hall et al. 2003: 257). But whereas “cultural change” signals very general patterns of gradual, incremental, and unintended shifts in cultural sensibilities, and “social movements” designates the coordinated efforts of formal collectivities to effect specific legislative and social reforms, cultural movements can be understood as the generally intentional and loosely collectivized efforts of groups or networks of individuals, to effect gradual and subtle shifts in the habits and sensibilities that shape their own everyday conduct and the everyday conducts of others. Cultural movements are not unintended processes of cultural change, nor are they intended strategies targeting social or legislative reform through cultural methods. They are intended patterns of cultural transformation resulting from the innovations and disseminations of a group with restricted membership or a cultural vanguard. Participants in such movements foster collective identities around a shared program concerned with the reproduction, innovation, and circulation (and in some cases gatekeeping) of a cultural style, understood as a way of living, a way of acting in and experiencing the world, and a way of relating to oneself and to others.

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