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Meaning in Action: Outline of an Integral Theory of Culture

Meaning in Action: Outline of an Integral Theory of Culture

Rein Raud

ISBN: 978-1-509-51125-9

Jul 2016, Polity

240 pages

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£17.99

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Description

In this important new book Rein Raud develops an original theory of culture understood as a loose and internally contradictory system of texts and practices that are shared by intermittent groups of people and used by them to make sense of their life-worlds. This theory views culture simultaneously in two ways: as a world of texts, tangible and shareable products of signifying acts, and as a space of practices, repeatable activities that produce, disseminate and interpret these clusters of meaning. Both approaches are developed into corresponding models of culture which, used together, are able to provide a rich understanding of any meaning in action.

In developing this innovative theory, Raud draws on a wide range of disciplines, from anthropology, sociology and cultural studies to semiotics and philosophy. The theory is illustrated throughout with examples drawn from both ‘high’ and popular culture, and from Western and Asian traditions, dealing with both contemporary and historical topics. The book concludes with two case studies from very different contexts – one dealing with Italian poetry in the 13th century, the other dealing with the art scene in Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

This timely and original work makes a major new contribution to the theory of culture and will be welcomed by students and scholars throughout the social sciences and humanities.

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  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • An outline of the theory and the book
  • 1 Looking for culture, looking at things
  • Social/cultural
  • Cultural communities
  • The cultural subject
  • Summary
  • 2 Meaning and signification
  • The problem of reference
  • Two kinds of concepts
  • The internalisation of meaning
  • Claims and bids
  • Summary
  • 3 Culture as textuality
  • Base-texts and result-texts
  • The operational memory
  • Organisation of knowledge
  • Standards and codes
  • Summary
  • 4 Culture as a network of practices
  • The cultural role: functions and goals of a practice
  • The social position: the carrier and status of a practice
  • Materials and rules
  • Cultural institutions
  • Summary
  • 5 Case Study I: The metaphysics of love and the beginnings of Italian vernacular poetry
  • Italian political landscape in the 13th century: the bidding space
  • The poetic context
  • The carriers of the practice
  • The science of love as privileged knowledge
  • Vulgare, the medium
  • Institutions and textuality
  • Summary
  • 6 Case Study II: Art and politics in Eastern Europe in the 1990s
  • The institutions
  • The carriers
  • Textuality, codes and languages
  • Summary
  • 7 Concluding remarks
  • A few final words
  • References
  • Index
"A high wire act of cultural theorizing, ambitious and original. Raud pushes the textual tradition of semiotics further than anybody has ever done, into situated, existential practices and circulating cultural institutions. The case studies are fascinating in themselves and illustrate how Raud's theory might work in practice."
Jeffrey Alexander, Yale University

"Professor Raud’s range is amazing and his book combines in an exciting way perspectives which usually are kept separate. His voice, coming from a less well-known tradition, adds a genuinely new element."
Maurice Bloch, The London School of Economics and Political Science

"Meaning in Action would be worth reading for the ambition and importance of its project alone, but Raud’s thorough analysis of the fundamentals of culture make this an extremely worthwhile read, and one that I think may spawn a vital discussion about the basic conceptual structure of culture itself."
Cultural Sociology
Meaning in Action would be worth reading for
the ambition and importance of its project alone, but Raud’s thorough analysis of the
fundamentals of culture make this an extremely worthwhile read, and one that I think
may spawn a vital discussion about the basic conceptual structure of culture itself.