The best-known classic works of Emile Durkheim are characterized by a structural approach to the understanding of society, and it is this element of his writings that has been most taken up by modern social science. This volume rejects the dominant structural approach, drawing instead on Durkheim's later work, in which he shifted to a symbolic theory of modern industrial societies that emphasized the importance of ritual to collective behavior. By doing so, the contributors offer not only a radically different interpretation of Durkheim, but also a challenging new way of linking the interpretation of culture and the interpretation of society.
"Any new interpretation or framework must be judged by its fruits and in this case the results are very promising...It is to be hoped that this is only the first in a series of works drawing out the implications of Durkheim's sociology for a new theoretical synthesis. Such a synthesis is badly needed, particularly in American sociology. Jeffrey Alexander's contribution to the revitalization is already outstanding and his intellectual leadership is evident here." Kenneth Thompson, The Times Higher Education Supplement "...a series of stimulating chapters...The book is filled with gems of insight, making it a most provocative use of the Durkheimian tradition." Contemporary Sociology