Tatiana Tatarchevskaya 1
  • 1 Sacred Heart University, Administration Building 235, 5151 Park Avenue Fairfield, CT 06825, USA

About new historical turn in sociology

2012, vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 75–83 [issue contents]

This paper provides an overview of a historically-oriented cultural approach in American sociology. It maps sociology’s emergence in the 1970–80s in the U.S. against the background of vast public protest activity and the parallel attempts by sociologists to offer paradigms different from structural-functionalist and positivistic approaches reigning social disciplines at the time. The paper discusses relational and temporal analysis as a major principle of such sociology. Here, social phenomena are seen as dynamic and multi-faceted, and their configurations stem from historical cultural contexts. William Sewell’s conception of the “event” is examined as an example of such an approach. Using the case of the “taking of the Bastille” Sewell restores the context where it became possible to re-interpret this occurrence as a historic event in such terms as revolution, power of the people and the end of despotic rule. This new discourse became possible due to certain configurations of institutions and collective meanings which provided the context for the following events, a condition often referred to as path dependency. The role of a sociologist then is to identify such significant institutional and cultural contexts for the understanding of how social change occurs. Further, the paper emphasizes the importance of such an approach for cultural sociology, and for the strong program, in particular. As one example Jeffrey Olick’s work is of utmost importance as it suggests a methodology to analyze an event’s meanings not as one pertaining to timeless cultural codes but as conditioned by a sequence of historical events granting it its particular significance.

Citation: Tatarchevskaya Tatiana (2012) O novom istoricheskom povorote v sotsiologii [About new historical turn in sociology] The Russian Sociological Review, 1, pp. 75-83 (in Russian)
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