This paper examines recent work in the sociology of culture devoted to providing endogenous explanations of cultural phenomena. The focus is on works that provide cultural explanations of cultural processes, as opposed to the social structural and “production of culture” explanations otherwise predominant in the literature. I examine three distinct approaches: a “post-hermeneutic” approach devoted not to the question of cultural interpretation but to the issue of subjects' manipulation of culture in the quest for meaning; a semiotic approach focused on the mechanics of symbol systems; and an ecological approach that emphasizes the role of competition and niche density in explaining both cultural stasis and change. The three approaches have in common a general lack of interest in traditional conceptions of meaning (), choosing instead to focus on issues related to the internal structure and dynamics of cultural expression. This marks a new opportunity for synthesis and exploration in a field traditionally devoted to extra-cultural explanation of cultural phenomena. Both endogenous and exogenous explanations are offered for the rise of this new trend in the sociology of culture.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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