The production of scientific change: Richard Peterson and the institutional turn in cultural sociology

Paul DiMaggio

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The production perspective posits that the content of formally produced symbol systems is shaped by the social context of their production, distribution and use. I draw on the insights of the 'production of culture' perspective introduced by Richard Peterson in 1974 to analyze the development and influence of that same perspective. Using a combination of intellectual history and citation analysis, I demonstrate that the production perspective rapidly acquired a central position in the new sociology of culture that emerged in the 1970s; that it became hegemonic within the sociology of art and media; and that, by the 1990s, its influence could be seen in the study of informally produced culture and in the humanities. The production perspective's success is explicable as a function of (a) its intrinsic merit in generating compelling explanations; (b) the environment into which it was introduced, which lacked seriously competitive paradigms in the areas of arts, media, and informally produced culture; (c) Peterson's use of institutions to disseminate the perspective and create an academic minisocial movement on its behalf; and (d) his framing of the perspective, which at once located it in the great tradition of sociological theory but at the same time left it sufficiently unfinished that others could appropriate it to their own uses.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)107-136
    Number of pages30
    Issue number2-3
    StatePublished - 2000

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Cultural Studies
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Communication
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Linguistics and Language
    • Literature and Literary Theory


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