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Narrating and Naturalizing Civil Society and Citizenship Theory: The Place of Political Culture and the Public Sphere

Margaret R. Somers
Sociological Theory
Vol. 13, No. 3 (Nov., 1995), pp. 229-274
DOI: 10.2307/223298
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/223298
Page Count: 46
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Narrating and Naturalizing Civil Society and Citizenship Theory: The Place of Political Culture and the Public Sphere
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Abstract

The English translation of Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere converges with the revival of the "political culture concept" in the social sciences. Surprisingly, Habermas's account of the Western bourgeois public sphere has much in common with the original political culture concept associated with Parsonian modernization theory in the 1950s and 1960s. In both cases, the concept of political culture is used in a way that is neither political nor cultural. Explaining this peculiarity is the central problem addressed in this article and its companion piece, which appeared in Sociological Theory, volume 3, number 2 (1995). I hypothesize that this is the case because the concept itself is embedded in an historically constituted political culture (here called a conceptual network)-a structured web of conceptual relationships that combine into Anglo-American citizenship theory. The method of an historical sociology of concept formation is used to analyze historically and empirically the internal constraints and dynamics of this conceptual network. The method draws from new work in cultural history and sociology, social studies, and network, narrative, and institutional analysis. This research yields three empirical findings: this conceptual network has a narrative structure, here called the Anglo-American citizenship story; this narrative is grafted onto an epistemology of social naturalism; and these elements combine in a metanarrative that continues to constrain empirical research in political sociology.

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