A Society of Signs? by David Harris

By David Harris

An advent to present debates round the subject matters of tradition, id and way of life. Such debates frequently commence with the statement that we are living in a "society of signs". positive aspects comprise: precis and demanding dialogue of a few uncomplicated techniques in social thought and cultural research; key readings of a few of the paintings of writers together with Barthes and Giddens; experiences of labor in additional conventional components, for instance, the sociology of id and the embedding method present in social lifestyles; and recommendation on extra analyzing.

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24 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES AND MODERN LIFE In the interests of championing sociology against postmodernism (which is what we are doing in this chapter), let us take on and critique the readings of Goffman as early postmodernist. ) Not only is Goffman’s terminology quite different, as is the intention, in my view (no grounded attack on metanarratives), but the examples he chooses are from everyday mundane life. This technique not only helps the readability of the pieces, but also leads to an exploration of some of the important social constraints on everyday life which can be lost in the more enthusiastic celebrations of ‘nomadic subjectivity’ or ‘self-monitored lifestyles’.

One classic study in leisure studies—Clarke and Critcher (1985)—can be selected as an example that comes to hand. Clarke and Critcher ground their analytical frameworks in both a commentary on contemporary events and in a history of leisure provision at two levels. The first, general or ‘theoretical’ level consists of a model derived from Gramscian Marxism which 26 SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES AND MODERN LIFE features a story of continued oscillation between two moments in the continuing struggles for hegemony.

In Giddens (1979:66), for example, we are talking of a ‘set of generative rules and resources’ which exists ‘virtually’, as a kind of set of potentials, rather than being concretely manifested in space and time, a kind of sociological variant of a linguistic system, a langue. Such structures are not produced by social subjects of any kind but can be inferred or presupposed from actions and practices, as the enabling ‘rules and resources’ for such actions and practices. What is often called ‘structure’ in sociology, the actual patterns of institutions, is seen as existing at a separate concrete level, and Giddens uses the term ‘system’ for this level.

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