A Society of Signs? by David Harris

By David Harris

An advent to present debates round the topics of tradition, id and way of life. Such debates usually start with the statement that we are living in a "society of signs". positive aspects comprise: precis and important dialogue of a few uncomplicated techniques in social concept and cultural research; key readings of a few of the paintings of writers together with Barthes and Giddens; reports of labor in additional conventional components, for instance, the sociology of id and the embedding strategy present in social existence; and suggestion on extra examining.

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Such poetics have their place, of course, but we are far from any attempts rigorously to discuss concrete complexities as some kind of test for theory. If you read Foucault, Baudrillard (or even recent Bauman or Giddens) from any sort of background in sociology, you will find in them a seemingly arbitrary or frankly tactical use of empirical examples, massive generalisations based on these slender resources, and the cheerful interweaving of all sorts of theoretical resources, from psychology, sociology, history and ethics, for example.

Whether this can be done on agreed principles, or whether it all depends on the tastes and judgements of the critic, is open to debate. Giddens and structuration It is possible to find sociological writers who have quite explicitly foregrounded these issues. We cannot pursue the details here, but a sketch is offered in passing of some aspects of some of the betterknown synthetic moments in social theory—such as Lacan’s ‘linguistic’ re-reading and incorporation of Freud, or Baudrillard’s of Marx (both in Chapter 5).

This actual history is suitably complex and concrete—but it is less clear that it has been generated by Gramscian analysis itself in anything but the broadest outline. The actual source of the concrete historical account often seems to arise from classic bourgeois history, for example. Adding bourgeois (that is, strictly speaking unreliable and ideological) empirical contents like this is common in Gramscian analysis, as I have tried to argue elsewhere (Harris 1992). In some cases, it might be contents added from journalistic histories (see Hall et al.

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