Sketches in the Theory of Culture

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2018-11-19
  • Publisher: Polity

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Sketches in the Theory of Culture is a remarkable work by all measures. Written by Zygmunt Bauman when he was still a professor in Poland, and originally intended for publication in 1968, it was suppressed by the Polish government in the wave of repression following the protests in March of that year. For decades, it was thought to be lost. Astonishingly, it survived in the form of an uncorrected set of proofs which was recently discovered, and is the basis of this edition.

Now published in English for the first time, this book sheds new light on Bauman’s work prior to his emigration and illuminates the intellectual climate of Poland in the late 1960s. Bauman’s pursuit of a semiotic theory of culture includes a discussion of processes of individualization and the intensification of global ties, anticipating themes that became central to his later work. Though this book stands as a testament to a historical moment, it also transcends it. ‘[W]e live in an age that seems, for the first time in human history, to acknowledge cultural multiplicity as an innate and fixed feature of the world, one which gives rise to new forms of identity that are at ease with plurality, like a fish in water’, writes Bauman – a statement that is as true today as it was when he penned it in the 1960s.

Sketches in the Theory of Culture is a strikingly prescient reflection on culture and society by one of the most influential social thinkers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It will appeal to students and scholars across the social sciences and humanities and to the many readers of Bauman’s work.

Author Biography

Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017) was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Leeds.

Table of Contents

A Message in a Bottle: on the Recovered Work of Zygmunt Bauman vii
Dariusz Brzeziński

From the Author 1

Part I Sign and Culture

I The Origins of the Semiotic Theory of Culture, or the Crisis of Cultural Anthropology 7

II Towards a Semiotic Theory of Culture 31

III Man and Sign 62

IV The Problem of Universals and the Semiotic Theory of Culture 94

V Some Research Problems in the Semiotic Theory of Culture 119

Part II Culture and Social Structure

I Cultural and Extra-Cultural Organization of Society 155

II Economics, Culture, and Typologies of Societies 172

III Cultural Determinants of the Research Process 203

IV Three Observations About Problems of Contemporary Education 216

V Masses, Classes, Elites: Semiotics and the Re-Imagination of the Sociological Function of Culture 231

Afterword 251
Zygmunt Bauman, 2016

Notes 256

Index 269

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