Martin Wenglinsky is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Quinnipiac University. He was editor and chief writer of a previous blog, also on politics and culture, west end e-journal, its issues still available on the Internet. He is the author of Structure and Substance in Wilkie Collins, available on Amazon.
The theme of this blog is to work through the relation between culture and social structure, especially as that reveals itself in politics. Culture refers to the ideas, images, and feelings which people carry around with themselves in their heads. These include the overt culture of opera and novels and television programs as well as the self-conscious culture of bars and proms and ethnic groups and social classes and also the unself-conscious culture of primitive societies and most of daily interaction, where we know we are striking a pose as a concerned citizen but don’t think about it as such. Social structure, for its part, refers to the circumstances under which we lead our social lives, these contexts consisting, among other things, of our ethnicities and social classes and our occupations and our families as well as the voluntary organizations to which we belong. These social structures are objective in that they operate as contexts for our lives whether we are aware of them or not. You don’t have to know that you are being underpaid at work or otherwise exploited by an employer for that to be happening. Politics is the rich intersection of culture and social structure insofar as that relates to government, and politics has its own many stories to tell as well as both responding to and creating changes in social structure.
There are no end of issues to be addressed from this perspective, some more topical than others, but it is worth saying that I try to deal with issues having to do with high and low culture as well as with issues that have for a long time been the subject for those who wonder about social structure, such as whether people have natural dispositions, or how being late is a feature of modern life, and also with political matters such as Trump and Hillary, by combining literary critical analysis with, in those two case, the analysis of political institutions. Politics, as is the rest of life, is filled with both the dramatic and the constraining, and so demonstrates, again and again, the combination of free will and solid circumstances that make up the underpinnings of human existence.