The American Sociologist

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 388–415

The Conceptual Incoherence of “Culture” in American Sociology


DOI: 10.1007/s12108-016-9308-y

Cite this article as:
Smith, C. Am Soc (2016) 47: 388. doi:10.1007/s12108-016-9308-y


The meaning of the concept “culture” as used in American sociology is incoherent. Despite the advances and maturing of cultural sociology, the central idea of “culture” itself remains conceptually muddled. This article demonstrates this critical point by analyzing the definitions, meanings, and uses of the word “culture” in the field of cultural sociology’s most significant, recent edited volumes, handbooks, readers, companions, annual review chapters, and award-winning books and journal articles. Arguing for the scholarly importance of conceptual coherence, this article calls for more disciplined and cooperative theoretical work to clarify and move toward a more standardized meaning of “culture” in American sociology.


Culture Meaning Symbols Codes Concepts Definitions 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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