In this book Jeffrey Alexander develops the view that cultural sociology and “cultural pragmatics” are vital for understanding the structural turbulence and political possibilities of contemporary social life.
Central to Alexander’s approach is a new model of social performance that combines elements from both the theatrical avant-garde and modern social theory. He uses this model to shed new light on a wide range of social actors, movements, and events, demonstrating through striking empirical examples the drama of social life. Producing successful dramas determines the outcome of social movements and provides the keys to political power. Modernity has neither eliminated aura nor suppressed authenticity; on the contrary, they are available to social actors who can perform them in compelling ways.
This volume further consolidates Alexander’s reputation as one of the most original social thinkers of our time. It will be of great interest to students and scholars in sociology and cultural studies as well as throughout the social sciences and humanities.
Introduction: A New Theory of Modernity from Ritual to Performance
1. Seizing the Stage: Mao, MLK, and Black Lives Matter Today
2. Revolutionary Performance in Egypt: The 2011 Uprising
3. Political Performance in the U.S.: Obama’s 2012 Re-Election
4. Dramatic Intellectuals
5. Social Theory and the Theatrical Avant-Guard
“From Mao to Martin Luther King, Mubarak’s Egypt to Obama’s America, the ritual roots of social structure to the performativity of postmodern everyday life, Alexander shows how we live and act today. This book is a necessary update on Erving Goffman and Victor Turner, a brilliantly illuminating must-read for all humanists, social scientists, and dramaturges.”
Richard Schechner, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University
“Jeffrey Alexander’s — The Drama of Social Life — reveals the ability of this essential American social theorist to unpack and explain the dynamic dramas of large-scale change. Ranging from Tahrir Square to the Black Lives Matter movement to the Obama White House, Alexander connects these world-shaking political events to their essential performative qualities, a core feature of modernity. Some books are designed to be read, while others demand to be read and discussed. This book is one of the latter.”
Gary Alan Fine, Northwestern University