Dmitrii D. Sharikov

National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia


This paper focuses on the analysis of contemporary theories of culture and cognition in cultural sociology. It identifies two major research traditions within cognitivist cultural sociology, based on micro-individualist and collectivist modes of sociological explanation respectively. Two prominent theoretical frameworks within the “micro-individualist” tradition are then critically examined: Stephen Vaisey’s dual-process models of culture in action and Omar Lizardo’s typology of cultural kinds. It is argued that both frameworks, although well-defined and theoretically in sightful, are prone to unwarranted microfoundationalist reductionism. The paper then proceeds to evaluate the presuppositions of the explicitly “collectivist” Zerubavelian paradigm of cultural sociology, as well as a series of recent contributions to the field by scholars representing the neo-Durkheimian “strong program”. Both are argued to contain problematic assumptions about the location and means of transmission of cultural content. It is concluded that neither “micro-individualist” nor “collectivist” theories of culture and cognition can provide an adequate account of how culture and cognition interrelate since both frameworks are based on explicitly reductionist social ontologies. The article then calls for the adoption of Tuukka Kaidesoja’s “naturalized critical realist” social ontology that seeks to overcome these philosophical biases. The paper examines two major sources of Kaidesoja’s ontological doctrine, namely Mario Bunge’s systemic materialist ontology and the “distributed cognition” perspective. The article then seeks to outline a preliminary sketch of an alternative account of culture that involves the generation, transmission, and transformation of representational states across different media within distributed cognitive systems.

Keywords: cognitive sociology, culture and cognition, distributed cognition, naturalized critical realism