Against Essentialism: A Theory of Culture and Society

Against Essentialism: A Theory of Culture and Society. Harvard University Press, 2001.
By Stephan Fuchs

Against Essentialialism presents a sociological theory of culture. This interdisciplinary and foundational work deals with basic issues common to current debates in social theory, including society, culture, meaning, tructh, and communication. Stephan Fuchs argues that many mysteries about these concepts lose their mysteriousness when dynamic variations are introduced.

Fuchs proposes a theory of culture and society that merges two core traditions - American network theory and European (Luhmannian) systems theory. His book distinguishes four major types of social "observers" - encounters, groups, organizations, and networks. Society takes place in these four modes of association. Each generates levels of observation linked with each other into a "culture" - the unity of these observations.

Against Essentialism presents a groundbreaking new approach to the construction of society, culture, and personhood. The book invites both social scientists and philosophers to see what happens when essentialism is abandoned.

"Against Essentialism presents the most diversified and extensive discussion of anti-essentialism I am aware of, bringing together a host of arguments that one usually does not find in a single volume. Fuches lifts network theory out of its usual organizational sociological, economic sociology, and exchange theory context, and transforms it into a more constructionist and reflexive sociological theoretical framework that also manages to pay attention to microsociological dynamics. It is an original and scholarly contribution to social science theory."
-- Karin Knorr Cetina, Bielefeld University