• Alan Swingewood


In this book I have argued that the modern concept of culture arose simultaneously with the idea of modernity, and that the development of industrial capitalism, with its technological and urban-based infrastructure, laid the basis for the autonomisation of culture into distinctive spheres or fields, institutions and practices each structured in terms of specific internal logics and properties. In the work of Weber, Durkheim, Parsons, Bakhtin and Bourdieu, culture comes to occupy a privileged position, its structure and forms linked to specific social and historical contexts yet partly autonomous of social structure, institutions and social interaction. Locating culture contextually while preserving the principle of autonomy constitutes one of the most difficult problems in the sociology of culture. Although many cultural theorists acknowledge the autonomy principle, there is a strong tendency to collapse the concept of culture into the concept of society: Durkheim, Parsons and the Frankfurt School, for example, theorise culture partly in terms of its role in securing social integration, while simultaneously arguing that culture always involves immanent, transcendent universal values. Both Durkheim and Parsons acknowledge that the morally binding elements of culture flow from a universal core of values producing normative integration. Similiarly, Gramsci’s notion of hegemony implies a universal, ethical, cultural core capable of commanding the loyalty of both subordinate and dominant classes, while for the Frankfurt School culture is both commodified into culture industry and yet in essence affirming a critical and utopian potential.


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© Alan Swingewood 1998

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  • Alan Swingewood

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