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Against Essentialism

Against Essentialism

A Theory of Culture and Society

Stephan Fuchs

ISBN 9780674015968

Publication date: 02/01/2005

Against Essentialism 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, truth, 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 is an original contribution. Realists about science go to war against the social constructionists to defend the traditional meaning of science. Fuchs steps into this battle zone and does a beautiful job of dissecting and defining the nature of the sociological problems involved. The result is a confident, provocative critique of various positions in the science wars. By employing system theory and dynamic network thinking, Fuchs provides a highly coherent, forceful, and persuasive account of how to think about sciences from a sociological point of view.

    —Thomas J. Fararo, University of Pittsburgh


  • Stephan Fuchs is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia.

Book Details

  • 398 pages
  • 1-1/16 x 5-3/4 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press