Sociology of Culture, Media, and Sport

Cultural sociologists treat ''culture'' as all socially located forms and processes of human meaning-making, whether or not they occur in specialized institutions, and whether or not they are confined to one clearly bounded group.

Discussions of media in a social context are generally concerned with mass media and, more recently, new media. Mass media are defined as communication systems by which centralized providers use industrialized technologies to reach large and geographically scattered audiences, distributing content broadly classified as information and entertainment.

For sociologists subscribing to a hierarchical model of culture, sports may be regarded as its antithesis: a bodily practice, of little cultural consequence, gazed on by passive spectators for the enrichment of the leisure and media industries. However, taking sports seriously as culture does not necessitate the abandonment of formative sociological questions of structure, agency, and power, but helps to ''rehabilitate'' and extend them into hitherto neglected areas. Sport's raw popularity as spectacle alone marks it out as a pivotal element of contemporary society and culture.


Acculturation can be defined as the process of bringing previously separated and disconnected cultures into contact with one another. Acculturation is not the absorption of different cultures as a result of a mere physical contact or superficial exposure. The processes of cultural transmission and cultural borrowing are the result of conscious decision-making on the part […]

Agency and Intention

Agency is the faculty for action. This faculty may be uniquely human. Action differs from the (mere) behavior of non-human organisms, which is driven by innate or conditioned reflexes and instincts. Non-human organisms have no or little control over how they behave. They do not have a sense of self or, if they do, it […]

Body and Cultural Sociology

Diverse theoretical traditions have been influential in the development of the contemporary sociology of the body, such as philosophical anthropology, Marxist humanism, and phenomenology. However, Michel Foucault (1926-84) has been a dominant influence in late twentieth-century historical and sociological approaches. Systematic sociological interest in the body began in the 1980s with The Body and Society […]


Censorship has generally been of interest to social theorists when considered as a matter of state control over ”free speech” and/or mass-mediated content. This governmental censorship has tended to focus on notions of protecting ”vulnerable” (young/lower-class/female) audiences from representations of sex, violence, and criminality which, it is assumed, may deprave, corrupt, or desensitize them. Media-sociological […]


The central analytical core of the concept of civilization as presented here is the combination of ontological or cosmological visions, of visions of transmundane and mundane reality, with the definition, construction, and regulation of the major arenas of social life and interaction. The central core of civilizations is the symbolic and institutional interrelation between the […]

Civilizing Process

The concept of ”the civilizing process” rests on a conception of ”civilization” as a verb, aiming at understanding those social and political conditions, practices, and strategies which have produced changing conceptions of civility. There is a concern to link analysis of social, cultural, political and economic structures, processes, and lines of development to analysis of […]

Collective Action

The term ”collective action” is hopelessly broad. Taken at face value, it could plausibly refer to all forms of human behavior involving two or more people. For our purposes, however, collective action refers to emergent and at least minimally coordinated action by two or more people that is motivated by a desire to change some […]


Similar in meaning to the more inclusive term ”subculture,” counterculture designates a group whose norms, values, symbolic references, and styles of life deviate from those of the dominant culture. Indeed, sociological commentary on the counterculture of the 1960s is so deeply informed by the rubric of subculture as to render the terms inseparable in many […]

Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School

Critical theory and the Frankfurt School are virtually interchangeable identifiers that give apparent unity to the complex social and political concerns, epistemological questions, and critical analyses produced by the variety of thinkers affiliated with the Institut fur Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research). The Institut’s key figures included Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer, Leo Lowenthal, […]

Cultural Capital

Cultural capital is a concept that was first developed by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and has become an important component in analyses of culture, social class, and inequality. Cultural capital is one of many forms of capital – economic, social, symbolic – that individuals draw from to achieve upward mobility, gain distinction, and enhance their […]

Cultural Critique

Cultural critique is a broad field of study that employs many different theoretical traditions to analyze and critique cultural formations. Because culture is always historically and contextually determined, each era has had to develop its own methods of cultural analysis in order to respond to new technological innovations, new modes of social organization, new economic […]

Cultural Feminism

Foundationally, cultural feminism is a social movement that reclaims and redefines female identity and it seeks to understand women’s social locations by concentrating on men’s and women’s gender differences. It is believed that women can be liberated from their subordination in society through individual change, the redefinition of femininity and masculinity and the creation of […]

Cultural Imperialism

Cultural imperialism is the process and practice of promoting one culture over another and often occurs through programs designed to assist other nations, particularly developing nations. Historically this occurred during colonization where one nation overpowers another weaker country for economic or political gain. Culture can be imposed in a wide variety of ways such as […]

Cultural Relativism

The concept of cultural relativism refers to the idea that one needs to understand all cultures within the context of their own terms (i.e., values, norms, standards, customs, knowledges, lifeways, worldviews, etc.) rather than judge them from the perspective of one’s own culture. This ideal of cross-cultural understanding requires an epistemological ”suspension” of one’s own […]

Cultural Studies

Cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field that explores the linkages between society, politics, identity (or the person), and the full range of what is called ”culture,” from high culture and the popular arts or mass entertainment, to beliefs, discourses, and communicative practices. Cultural studies has drawn on different national traditions of inquiry into these connections […]

British Cultural Studies

British cultural studies argues that culture is where we live our relations to the material world; it is the shared meanings we make and encounter in our everyday lives. In this way, then, cultures are made from the production, circulation, and consumption of meanings. For example, if I pass a business card to someone in […]


Cultural sociologists treat ”culture” as all socially located forms and processes of human meaning-making, whether or not they occur in specialized institutions, and whether or not they are confined to one clearly bounded group. Cultural sociology is an area of social inquiry into meaning-making, defined by its analytic perspective, rather than a particular empirical topic […]

Culture Industries

Culture industries is a term which performs both a descriptive and conceptual function. Since the term was coined by Horkheimer and Adorno in their 1947 essay ”The culture industry: enlightenment as mass deception,” both what the term designates and its theoretical implications have undergone a number of shifts. In its original Frankfurt School usage the […]

Culture Jamming

Culture jamming refers to a tactical effort by a consumer activist or activists to counter or subvert pro-consumption messages delivered through mass media or other cultural institutions. Culture jammers use tactics such as creating anti-advertising promotions, graffiti and underground street art, billboard defacing and alteration, holding events such as spontaneous street parties or flash mobs, […]

Culture of Poverty

In the mid-1960s, Oscar Lewis described the amalgamation of conditions perpetuating patterns of inequality and poverty in society as the ”culture of poverty.” Through his research on Puerto Ricans, Lewis showed how difficult it was for people to escape poverty which he attributed to the influence of cultural beliefs that supported behaviors that allowed people […]