Sample Sociology Paper on Ann Swidler’s Culture In Action

There has been a significant seismic shift in the last twenty years in the in the way society understands the concept of culture. For antiquity, culture has been described as an amalgamation of different beliefs, thoughts, as well as behaviors that represent a particular community. However, since the turn of the century terms such as ‘popular culture’ and ‘Millennial’ have become key features describing the social structure in the current era. Culture is already a complex and slippery phenomenon to pin down, nevertheless, in an era of globalization, there seems to be a clear indication of added complexity. In sociology, the concept of understanding cultural changes can largely be traced back to Ann Swidler manuscript “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies”. Drawing on Swidler’s premise it can be argued that culture is a toolkit that provides a useful approach for the comprehension of an individuals or society’s lifestyle. At a time when stakeholders from both the private sector as well as governments seek to find information about the current generation, there exists a need to analyze Swidler’s work from three decades ago.

Currently, the internet has a significant amount of information regarding the millennial generation. As narrated by Clarke, the influence of globalization has grown more noticeable in forming diverse cultures globally (12). Subsequently, there exists a plethora of material regarding the 21st-century habits such as the use of social media in the workplace or schools. As indicated by Mische, this aforementioned phenomenon is slightly suggestive of Ann Swidler’s conception of culture (39). According to her, culture influences a community’s action not through the provision of values, but by giving a society the toolkit of habits, skills, as well as style. “Action is not determined by one’s values. Rather action and values are organized to take advantage of cultural competences” (Swidler, 275). Consequently, from her premise, individuals do not only exist within or identify with a specified culture. Nevertheless, they use culture to justify their decision-making processes and finally their behavior. In summation, the continuousness of social action is founded upon how traits are structured. Therefore, the strategies of action are directed by individual attitudes, global views, and habits.

In dominant or “settled” cultural periods, people’s beliefs ritual practices, art forms, ceremonies as well as language influence their action by providing resources for varied actions. As explained by Clarke, at such times the community’s toolkit establishes particular constraints to a particular set of choices that may lead to a limited repertoire of changing lifestyles (12). This may explain why the older generation seems to be at consent loggerheads with the millennials. In most occasions, an individual from the previous generation will indicate that ‘Common sense’ dictates an individual should not be active on their phones during a workplace meeting. On the other hand, millennials find it hard to relate to such a notion. Swidler illustrates the aspect of “cultural retooling”, a hindrance that prevents players’ from taking part in changes as it will need them to abandon everyday strategies of action for which they are equipped with. As explained by Swidler “The significance of specific cultural symbols can be understood only in relation to the strategies of action they sustain” (Swidler, 283). Over the last decades, the constant cultural clashing has led to instances where culture provides explicit ideologies that openly direct a community’s actions.

According to Swidler in the instance, an alternative culture emerges, its practice, as well as meaning within the toolkit, will likely be designed to aid individuals in developing new lifestyles. Consequently, in order for individuals to adapt to the new culture, they will need to discard some of the tools they had already acclimated before. This comes as an addition to acquiring new cultural toolkits that are in line with the new culture as well as learn how to use these newly acquired traits. As above mentioned, the amount of information that is presented in response to handling the millennials, for instance, their use of social media, as well as behaviors at the workplace or schools are a clear indication of Swidler’s comprehension of emerging cultures. Her notion of the topic has played a significant role in shaping the contemporary description of popular or prevailing cultures. From this comprehension, it can, therefore, be argued that communities or societies such as Millennials have used “cultural equipment” to make sense of their world (Mische, 68). It should be taken Cultural sociologists at present are largely in agreement that culture is concurrently constraining and enabling (Clarke, 41). Thus, culture influences social existence; for instance, choice, proclivities, as well as behavior. At times, the results may be oppressive; however, it is also subject to change relative to prevailing realities.

Culture is a multifaceted phenomenon that in itself is complicated in its description as well as definition. Over the last two decades, new aspects of culture changes due to globalization have become more pronounced thus increasing the phenomenon complexity. Ann Swidler manuscript “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies” highlights the perfect comprehension of what is happening in today’s society. According to the author, culture is a toolkit that allows society to adapt to new or emerging circumstances. Using the millennial generation example the information provided in this paper shows that Swidler was accurate in her articulation and description of new or emerging culture.

Works Cited

Clarke, Alison J. Design anthropology: Object culture in the 21st century. Ed. Alison J. Clarke. Vienna: Springer, 2011.

Mische, Ann. “Relational sociology, culture, and agency.” The Sage handbook of social network analysis (2011): 80-97.,%20culture%20and%20agency.pdf

Swidler, Ann. “Culture in action: Symbols and strategies.” American sociological review (1986): 273-286.