Can physical exercise at commercial fitness gyms be considered as treatment of individualized problems relating to health? Inspired by available research and Yngvar LøchensŽ (1971) concept «the therapeutic society», I discuss this question here. Interview statements of 16 fitness gym users are analysed as acts of positioning towards certain culturally defined positions, positions that are regarded as expressing cultural interpretations of physical exercise. The analysis shows that the informants can be related to seven positions; «the problem-solver», «the aesthete», «the one compensating», «the dependent one», «the outdoor person», «the sportsman» and «the fitness gym enthusiast». The further analysis shows that interpretations expressed by the former four positions largely harmonize with the values and norms characterizing «the therapeutic society». These positions are discussed as expressions of «the sick role» (Parsons, 1988), «the health role» (Shilling, 2008), as well as individualized responsibility for one’s health in a complex knowledge society. «The outdoor person», «the sportsman» and the «fitness gym enthusiast» are to a greater extent discussed as alternative interpretations of physical exercise, emphasizing immediate and valued experiences. Considering these findings, commercial fitness gyms should be subjected to versatile sociological investigation.
Genetically modified food is a complex phenomenon located in the borderland between nature, science and society. While some will argue that tampering with nature is unfortunate, others believe that it is a natural and necessary development in agriculture and food production. In this article, I describe the Norwegian discourse on genetically modified food as expressed through a discourse analytical approach of five focus group interviews conducted in the winter of 2008. The groups comprised actors from farm organizations, environmental organizations, the food industry, management, regulatory bodies and ministries, as well as scientists and experts. It is shown that interest groups have difficulty understanding the points of view of other groupings, with disagreements on the concept of risk leading to conflict and confusion about the Norwegian discourse on genetically modified food. Discursive practices highlight the need for a clear definition of the term as well as clarification of the conditions governing risk, uncertainty and benefit. It is a battle over the definition of what is right, most profitable and acceptable. The article shows that genetically modified food is a highly politicized issue and that there is an absence of public debate on the topic. Common to all groups, however, is a desire for constructive dialogue in an appropriate forum.
This article discusses the background and some of the controversy surrounding Zygmunt Baumans sociology of morality. In much of his extensive writing, ethics has been a recurrent theme – he has contributed significantly to putting ethical issues on the sociological agenda. Bauman is highly critical of what he calls the canonical Durkheimian view of morality as a product of societal processes, which he describes as a sociological reduction; traditional sociology of morality needs a thorough revision. With reference to the philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Knud E. Løgstrup, he anchors morality in pre-societal sources and in what he describes as «an independent existential mode of social norms», whose hallmark is «responsibility». According to Bauman, responsibility is something that comes to meet us – we encounter it unconditioned by understanding and cultural influence, and it takes place in social contexts. Immorality, on the other hand, is linked to structural societal conditions which manipulate and weaken an impulse of responsibility. The article questions the assertion that social condition always destroys moral action, as Bauman argues, and asks whether responsibility and ethical demand can play together with understanding, social norms and culture.
In this article, I present a broad cultural sociological approach to the study of meaning-making processes in social life. I argue that such an approach strengthens research on both culture and media. With a broad cultural sociological perspective, culture is treated as an independent variable. Researchers applying a narrow cultural sociological – a sociology of culture – approach tend to focus on the production and reception of culture, in terms of studies of how power and strategic interests affect the production of culture, or how variables such as gender, class, age or ethnicity affect how cultural messages are interpreted. Researchers applying a broad cultural sociological approach, on the other hand, take interest in all three dimensions of the communication model (sender-message-receiver) and how these interplay with each other and the social, cultural and political surroundings, all of which are historically embedded. I present a study object particularly suited to a broad cultural sociological analysis, namely historically important cultural institutions that are facing major changes in their social surroundings. This makes translation and legitimation of the institution’s idea and practice necessary, which represents an intense form of meaning-making. Public service broadcasting is used as the main example of such an institution.