1st Edition

Alfred Schutz, Phenomenology, and the Renewal of Interpretive Social Science

By Besnik Pula Copyright 2024
    230 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In recent decades, the historical social sciences have moved away from deterministic perspectives and increasingly embraced the interpretive analysis of historical process and social and political change. This shift has enriched the field but also led to a deadlock regarding the meaning and status of subjective knowledge. Cultural interpretivists struggle to incorporate subjective experience and the body into their understanding of social reality. In the early twentieth century, philosopher Alfred Schutz grappled with this very issue. Drawing on Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology and Max Weber’s historical sociology, Schutz pioneered the interpretive analysis of social life from an embodied perspective. However, the recent interpretivist turn, influenced by linguistic philosophies, discourse theory, and poststructuralism, has overlooked the insights of Schutz and other phenomenologists. This book revisits Schutz’s phenomenology and social theory, positioning them against contemporary problems in social theory and interpretive social science research. The book extends Schutz’s key concepts of relevance, symbol relations, theory of language, and lifeworld meaning structures. It outlines Schutz’s critical approach to the social distribution of knowledge and develops his nascent sociology and political economy of knowledge. This book will appeal to readers with interests in social theory, phenomenology, and the methods of interpretive social science, including historical sociology, cultural sociology, science and technology studies, political economy, and international relations.

    1. Introduction  2. The Vanishing Mediator: The Phenomenological Moment in American Social Science  3. Relevance Analysis: Cognition and Knowledge in Social Phenomenology  4. Thematic, Interpretive, and Motivational Relevances: Belief, Meaning, and Action in the Social World  5. Symbol Relations and Social Reality: Culture and Structure in the Social World  6. From Phenomenology to the Sociology and Political Economy of Knowledge: Culture, Power, and the Social Distribution of Knowledge  7. Conclusion: Phenomenology, Social Theory, and Interpretive Social Science


    Besnik Pula is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech, USA, where he also serves as Director of the International Studies Program. He is the author of Globalization Under and After Socialism: The Evolution of Transnational Capital in Central and Eastern Europe.