Advertisement

Representationalism and cognitive culturalism: riders on elephants on turtles all the way down

  • Jason L. MastEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

This article examines the influx of neurocognitive concepts in cultural sociology and this development’s consequences for representationalism. In the first part, I examine representationalism in two research programs that have shaped cultural sociology from the cultural turn to the present: Jeffrey Alexander’s “strong program” and Ann Swidler’s “tool kit” theory. I also briefly discuss the mixed and contradictory findings presented in one of sociology’s most-cited cognitive works, Paul DiMaggio’s (Annu Rev Sociol 23:263–87, 1997) programmatic statement on cognitive psychology’s potential contributions to sociology, which catalyzed the discipline’s cognitive turn. In part two, I demonstrate how in working with and against these three pillars in cultural sociology, figures such as Omar Lizardo, Steven Vaisey, and John Levi Martin have drawn on the cognitive neurosciences to re-conceptualize culture in ways that may have profound consequences for representationalism as it is practiced in the field. I conclude by arguing that representationalism is present but suppressed in cognitive cultural theory and its empirical investigations; that representationalism finds support in the neurocognitive sources that cognitive culturalists cite; and by asserting that future general theories of action will be predicated on a more interactive relationship between automatic and deliberative cognitive domains than the cognitive culturalists currently allow.

Keywords

Representationalism Cognition Schemas Dual process model Habitus 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The reviewers’ comments and those of the editor helped to sharpen this article’s arguments considerably. The author thanks them for their significant feedback. The author also thanks the participants of the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology Workshop, Alexis Galán and Agustin Casagrande at Excellence Cluster Normative Orders, and Erik Ringmar for their insightful comments.

References

  1. Alexander, J.C. 1987. The Centrality of the Classics. In Social Theory Today, ed. A. Giddens and J. Turner, 11–57. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, J.C. (1988 [1987]). Action and Its Environments. In Action and Its Environments: Toward a New Synthesis, ed. Alexander, J.C., 301–333. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Alexander, J.C. 2006. The Civil Sphere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alexander, J.C., and P. Smith. 1993. The Discourse of American Civil Society: A New Proposal for Cultural Studies. Theory and Society 22 (2): 151–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bellah, R. 1970. Between Religion and Science. In Beyond Belief, ed. R. Bellah, 237–257. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  6. Bellah, R., et al. 1985. Habits of the Heart. Berkeley, CA: UC Press.Google Scholar
  7. Berezin, M. 2019. On the Construction Sites of History: Where did Donald Trump Come From? In Politics of Meaning/Meaning of Politics, ed. J.L. Mast and J.C. Alexander. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. 1990a. In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, P. 1990b. The Logic of Practice. Cambridge, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brekhus, W., and G. Ignatow. 2019. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collins, R. 1998. The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cowan, N. 2000. The Magical Number 4 in Short-Term Memory: A Reconsideration of Mental Storage Capacity. Behavior and Brain Sciences 24: 87–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. D’Andrade, R. 1995. The Development of Cognitive Anthropology. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. D’Andrade, Roy. 2002. Cultural Darwinism and Language. American Anthropologist 104 (1): 223–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Derrida, J. 1967. Of Grammatology. London: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  17. DiMaggio, Paul. 1997. Culture and Cognition. Annual Review of Sociology 23: 263–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gallese, V., and G. Lakoff. 2005. The Brain’s Concepts: The Role of the Sensory-Motor System in Conceptual Knowledge. Cognitive Neuropsychology 22: 455–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gallese, V. 2003. The Manifold Nature of Interpersonal Relations: The Quest for a Common Mechanism. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 358: 517–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geertz, C. 1966. Religion as a Cultural System. In The Religious Situation, ed. D. Cutler, 639–688. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  21. Geertz, C. 1973a. Ideology as a Cultural System. In The Interpretation of Cultures, ed. C. Geertz, 193–233. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  22. Geertz, C. 1973b. Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture. In The Interpretation of Cultures, ed. C. Geertz, 3–30. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  23. Geertz, C. 1973c. Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight. In The Interpretation of Cultures, ed. C. Geertz, 412–453. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  24. Gorski, P. 2019. Why Evangelicals Voted for Trump: A Critical Cultural Sociology. In Politics of Meaning/Meaning of Politics, ed. J.L. Mast and J.C. Alexander, 164–184. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  25. Gray, K., and J.E. Keeney. 2015a. Impure, or Just Weird? Scenarios Sampling Bias Raises Questions About the Foundation of Morality. Social Psychology and Personality Science 6: 859–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gray, K., and J. Keeney. 2015b. Disconfirming Moral Foundations Theory on its Own Terms: Reply to Graham. Social Psychological and Personality Science 6 (8): 874–877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Haidt, J. 2001. The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail: A Social Intuitionist Approach to Moral Judgment. Psychological Review 108 (4): 814–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Haidt, J. 2005. The Happiness Hypothesis. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  29. Haidt, J. 2012. The Righteous Mind. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  30. Hayes, J.R.M. 1952. Memory Span for Several Vocabularies as a Function of Vocabulary Size, in Quarterly Progress Report. Cambridge, MA: Acoustics Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  31. Intraub, H., C. Gottesman, E. Willey, and I. Zuk. 1996. Boundary Extension for Briefly Glimpsed Photographs: Do common perceptual processes result in unexpected memory distortions? Journal of Memory and Language 35: 118–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kennett, J., and C. Fine. 2009. Will the Real Moral Judgment Please Stand Up? The Implications of Social Intuitionist Models of Cognition for Meta-Ethics and Moral Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (1): 77–96.Google Scholar
  33. Lakoff, G., and M. Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  34. Lizardo, O. 2004. The Cognitive Origins of Bourdieu’s Habitus. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 34: 375–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lizardo, O. 2007. ‘Mirror Neurons’, Collective Objects and the Problem of Transmission: Reconsidering Stephen Turner’s Critique of Practice Theory. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 37 (3): 319–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lizardo, O. 2014. Beyond the Comtean Schema: The Sociology of Culture and Cognition versus Cognitive Social Science. Sociological Forum 24 (4): 983–989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lizardo, Omar, and M. Strand. 2010. Skills, Tool Kits, Contexts and institutions: Clarifying the Relationship Between Different Approaches to Cognition in Cultural Sociology. Poetics 38 (2): 205–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martin, J.L. 2010. Life’s a Beach But You’re an Ant, and Other Unwelcome News for the Sociology of Culture. Poetics (Special Issue on: Brain, Mind and Cultural Sociology) 38 (2): 229–244.Google Scholar
  39. Mast, J.L. 2019. Introduction: Fragments, Ruptures, and Resurgent Structures: The Civil Sphere and the Fate of ”Civilship” in the Era of Trumpism. In Politics of Meaning/Meaning of Politics, ed. J.L. Mast and J.C. Alexander, 1–16. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moore, R. 2017. Fast or Slow: Sociological Implications of Measuring Dual-Process Cognition. Sociological Science 4: 196–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller, G.A. (1994 [1955]). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. The Psychological Review 101 (2): 343–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Patterson, O. 2014. Making Sense of Culture. Annual Review of Sociology 40: 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pollack, I. 1952. The Information of Elementary Auditory Displays. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America 24: 745–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pollack, I., and L. Picks. 1954. Information of elementary multi-dimensional auditory displays. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America 26: 155–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pugh, A.J. 2013. What Good are Interviews for Thinking About Culture? Demystifying Interpretive Analysis. American Journal of Cultural Sociology 1 (1): 42–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shepherd, H. 2011. The Cultural Context of Cognition: What the Implicit Association Test Tells US about How Culture Works. Sociological Forum 26 (1): 121–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shweder, R. 2007. The Resolute Irresolution of Clifford Geertz. Common Knowledge 13 (2–3): 191–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith, P. 2005. Why War?. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Strand, M., and O. Lizardo. 2015. Beyond World Images. Sociological Theory 33 (1): 44–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Strand, M., and O. Lizardo. 2017. The Hysteresis Effect: Theorizing Mismatch in Action. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 47 (2): 164–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Swidler, A. 1986. Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies. American Sociological Review 51 (2): 273–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Swidler, A. 2001. Talk of Love: How Culture Matters. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tavory, I., and A. Swidler. 2009. Condom Semiotics: Meaning and Condom Use in Rural Malawi. American Sociological Review 74 (2): 171–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vaisey, S. 2009. Motivation and Justification: A Dual-Process Model of Culture in Action. American Journal of Sociology 114 (6): 1675–1715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cluster of Excellence “Normative Orders”Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt am MainGermany

Personalised recommendations