Interpretation and Critical Classification. Geertzism and Beyond in the Sociology of Culture


  • Monika Krause Department of Sociology, The London School of Economics and Political Science



Hermeneutics, interpretation, history of humanities, Geertz, Weber, Verstehen, critique


How can we explain the success of Geertz’s Interpretation of Cultures in American sociology? On rereading Geertz today, it seems insufficient to point to the limits of Parson’s account of values and the lack of culture elsewhere in the discipline at the time to understand why such relatively concept-free and eclectic essays could become the placeholder for “culture” in some circles. If Geertz was successful partly because of the ambiguity of his work, this ambiguity is not perfectly open. The paper works towards a critical understanding of the celebration of Geertz in sociology in the context of the alternatives occluded within it. It discusses the consequences of an interpretation of “hermeneutics” and “the humanities” that goes back only as far as Dilthey, which ignores alternative, earlier forms of hermeneutics; it also discusses Weber’s position, which was also already an answer to Dilthey. What is at stake is the question as to how interpretation is defined, what it is defined against, and whether and how it is possible to combine interpretation with observation and critique in the sense of situating social phenomena within the range of possibilities for how things could be otherwise.


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How to Cite

Krause, M. . (2024). Interpretation and Critical Classification. Geertzism and Beyond in the Sociology of Culture. Sociologica, 18(1), 87–93.