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The Civil Sphere$
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Jeffrey C. Alexander

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195162509

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162509.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 October 2021

Communicative Institutions

Communicative Institutions

Public Opinion, Mass Media, Polls, Associations

(p.69) Chapter 5 Communicative Institutions
The Civil Sphere

Jeffrey C. Alexander

Oxford University Press

Civil society should be understood not merely in terms of contrasting symbolic categories but as structures of feeling, the diffusely sensed obligations and rights that represent, and are at the same time evoked by, contrasting solidary ties. Collective representations of such social relationships are broadcast by civil society institutions specializing in communicative, not regulative tasks—by the mass media, public opinion polls, and voluntary organizations. The structures of feeling that such institutions produce must be conceptualized as influence rather than authoritative control, or power in a more structural sense. They institutionalize civil society by creating messages that translate general codes into situationally specific evaluations and descriptions. This chapter analyzes these organizations of influence. It begins by discussing the lifeworld of public opinion which anchors communicative and regulative institutions alike.

Keywords:   civil society, solidary ties, structures of feeling, mass media, public opinion polls, voluntary organizations

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