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date: 17 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article proposes an entirely different understanding of the goals of cultural sociology, arguing that the subject position of the “spectator” should replace that of the “social scientist.” It contends that cultural sociology should aspire for fidelity—to moods and experiences, to locations and dramas, and to the truth of experience—and that this fidelity can be achieved through witnessing. In order to build the case for a new kind of cultural sociology, the article cites the works of Adam Smith, and especially his theory of social morality founded on the figure of the “impartial spectator.” It also examines four initial problems, including the problem of the alleged distinction between social action and spectatorship and the problem of identifying the appropriate “spectacle.” It concludes by highlighting some important lessons that need to be taken into account so that cultural sociology will continue to flourish.

Keywords: cultural sociology, spectator, social scientist, witnessing, Adam Smith, social morality, impartial spectator, spectacle, social action, spectatorship

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