Money, love, and sacredness: generalised symbolic media and the production of instrumental, affectual, and moral reality
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Keywords (English)generalised symbolic media, integration, cultural sociology
A central and long-standing theoretical problem in sociology concerns how differentiated social units are integrated. This problem, however, has been peripheralised since the decline of functionalism, while legitimation and regulation/power-differentials have moved to the forefront. This article argues that by reconceptualising the concept, generalised symbolic media, a robust theory of integration can be posited that does not sacrifice the importance of regulation (control) or legitimation (meaning). This paper extends both the Simmelian and functionalist versions of media by: (1) precisely defining the concept; (2) examining its two forms-a specialised institutional language and as an external referent of value; (3) elucidating the three modes of orientation various media impose; and (4) extending the function of media beyond (social) exchange to include other institutional processes such as communicative action, performance, and ritualised interaction. Ultimately, a reconceptualised theory of generalised symbolic media offers sociology a mechanism that simultaneously highlights the diversity found across institutional spheres, as well as the limits humans have in dealing with the problems posed by differentiation.