The first book of its kind, Sociology and the New Materialism explores the many and varied applications of “new materialism,” a key emerging trend in 21st century thought, to the practice of doing sociology. Offering a clear exposition of new materialist theory and using sociological examples throughout to enable the reader to develop a materialist sociological understanding, the book:  • Outlines the fundamental precepts of new materialism  • Explores how materialism provides new perspectives on the range of sociological topic areas  • Explains how materialist approaches can be used to research sociological issues and also to engage with social issues. Sociology and the New Materialism is a clear and authoritative one-stop guide for advanced undergraduates and postgraduates in sociology, cultural studies, social policy and related disciplines.

Society Beyond Systems, Structures and Stratification

Society: Beyond Systems, Structures and Stratification

Introduction

While the previous chapter focused upon the ‘natural’ environment within which our lives are lived, now it is time to examine in more detail the social and cultural ‘environment’ that is the context for social action and social identities. This social world, with all its divisions, inequalities and cultural formations has been considered in many different ways by sociologists. Durkheim (1976 [1915]) conceived of a ‘collective consciousness’ that provides the shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which unified society; Parsons (1951) spoke of a social system; while Bourdieu (1990: 88) discerned distinct cultural ‘fields’ with their own laws, axioms and power relations.

Our focus here will be upon these social ‘contexts’ of social action, ...

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