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Culture and Social Change: Tradition and Innovation in Cultural Analysis

  • Bassam Tibi

Abstract

Religion is a cultural system and culture is increasingly becoming a pertinent issue in world politics, but the debate on these issues is quite hazy. We need to ask: What is culture? At the outset we may observe that by the end of the Cold War the political focus on bipolarity was being phased out, and this coincided with the flaring up of religious and ethnic conflicts. A greater interest in the study of culture is developing. However, a clear concept of the issue itself is not available. At least there is a need for an understanding of culture that goes beyond the existing anthropological account and also relates culture to civilisation beyond traditional wisdoms on these issues.1 Cultural analysis has its classical roots in pre-war German sociology and I suggest looking at this to begin with. In the now classic article ‘Cultural Sociology’, originally published by Vierkandt in the Handwörterbuch der Soziologie (Handbook of Sociology), Alfred Weber defines culture as a ‘spiritual and intellectual expressional form within the substance of life, or a spiritual and intellectual attitude toward it’.2 In that article Weber continues: ‘The social structure has hence been the most essential object of spiritual and intellectual formation throughout all ages’ (p. 243). He concludes by stating:

Coming to terms with traditions and the ideal or religious incrustations of existence is in every new constellation — as we would describe the new historical situation in a sociological, technical way — mostly at least as important as the endeavour to capture and form, or come to terms with, the new naturalistic, practical, and intellectual stuff of life (p. 244).

Keywords

Social Change Modernisation Theory Cultural Analysis Normative Injunction Symbolic Dimension 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bassam Tibi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Cornell UniversityUSA

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