The recent cultural turn in American sociology has inspired a number of more scientifically oriented scholars to study the meanings that are embedded within institutions, practices, and cultural artifacts. I focus here on research that () emphasizes institutional (rather than individual) meanings, () uses a structural approach to interpretation, and () employs formal algorithms or quantitative procedures for reducing the complexity of meanings to simpler structural principles. I discuss two core methodological issues—the assessment of similarities and differences between items in a cultural system and the process by which structure-preserving simplifications are found in the data. I also highlight the importance of two-mode analytic procedures and I review some of the perceived benefits and criticisms of this style of research.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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