Interaction of cultures and social fields: new theoretical approaches in European and American sociology
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The article discusses some new trends in European and American sociological theory. It is argued that the multiple modernities perspective which emerged as a paradigm of historical sociology is exerting increasing influence on the study of contemporary societies. The multiple modernities approach has been elaborated by S. Eisenstadt. In today’s sociology the most influential versions of this perspective are represented by the theories of P. Wagner and J. Arnason. However, the multiple modernities approach remains mostly on the theoretical level. Within this perspective working out of middle-range theories which can be tested empirically is still needed. Some steps in this direction have already been made. Thus the theory of cultural encounters proposed by G. Delanty is discussed in the article. Delanty follows the idea of intercivilizational encounters developed in historical sociology. But he seeks to elaborate that concept and to apply it to cultural encounters in contemporary Europe. Delanty offers a system of ideal types that includes different forms of cultural encounters and considers their possible outcomes. Nevertheless, his approach can be applied mostly to the macro-level of social interaction. In addition, social mechanisms that define the choice of a certain type of interaction of cultures need to be considered in greater detail. At the same time a developing trend of today’s sociological theory is connected with searching for the ways to fill in the gap between sociology of culture and new institutionalism. Within this trend N. Fligstein and D. McAdam have worked out a theory of strategic action fields. These scholars are drawing on several theoretical sources including Bourdieu’s fields theory. However, further “humanization” of the new institutional approach seems relevant. Interaction between new trends in sociology of culture and new versions of institutional sociology can benefit both sides.