Home >> Neo Functionalism >> Jeffrey C Alexander

Jeffrey C Alexander

The neo functionalism represents a revival of the thought of Talcott Parsons by Jeffery Alexander who sees neo functionalism as following features to create a form of functionalism that is multi dimensional and includes micro as well as macro levels of analysis. It argues for an implicit democratic thrust in functional analysis and incorporate a conflict orientation. It also emphasizes uncertainty and interactional creativity. Alexander defines action as the movement of concrete, living breathing persons as they make their way through time and space. In addition he argues that every action contains a dimension of free will by which he is expanding functionalism to include some of the concerns of symbolic interactionalism. Alexander started working on cultural sociology in 1980s.Durkheim's elementary forms of religious life was key to Alexander's thought as in this work Durkheim analyses the ways by which collective representations emerge and function as well as the role of rituals in maintaining solidarity and reiterating society's norms and values to the congregation.

The religious processes observed in tribal societies are as pertinent in modern societies regardless of whether modern societies believe themselves to be rational and secular, their civil life and processes are underpinned by collective representations by strong emotional ties and by various narratives that tell society what it believes in and what values it holds sacred.


Cultural Trauma

In his earlier studies Alexander has written that holocaust was not immediately perceived as universally signifying universal evil for western societies rather than that it was constructed as such by way of a long process of narration and signification. In another article he writes about Watergate crisis that was originally not perceived by American society as much more than a minor incident. The incident had to be culturally narrated and constructed as compromising the core values of American society turning into a full-fledged scandal. These events are currently thought of as deeply traumatic for civil society is not inherently devastating but are rather constructed as such through cultural processes.

According to Alexander cultural trauma occurs when members of a collectively feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways. It is different from lay trauma that refers to the idea that certain events are inherently traumatic to the individuals who experience them.