What is “the relative autonomy of culture”?

Authored by: Jeffrey K. Olick

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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What does it mean to say that culture is “relatively autonomous” from structure? This chapter reconstructs a debate between those who maintain the “analytical” autonomy of culture and those who see culture and structure as mutually constitutive. Because of the former’s concern not to commit the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness,” they mistake the constitutivist project as conflationary – a failure rather than refusal to defend the analytical autonomy of culture. As important as it is to avoid misplaced concreteness in discussions of cultural autonomy, just as important is to understand that the constitutivist argument is distinct from the autonomist position, not a weaker version of it.

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