Sociology Cultural Production and Circulation
Jennifer C. Lena, Vaughn Schmutz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 February 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 February 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0195


The production perspective in the sociology of culture emerged in the 1970s as an alternative to “reflection” theories that assumed a strict homology between culture and social structure. Scholars of cultural production shifted attention from macro-level determinants to meso-level influences on symbolic goods, including the legal, technological, occupational, organizational, industrial, and market environments in which they are created and circulated, much like any other commercial product. Scholars in this tradition focus more on how culture is made than on meaning-making and share a general assumption that products of the creative or cultural industries can be studied in much the same way as products in other industries. Resultantly, there are strong theoretical and methodological compatibilities between work in the production of culture and that in organizational and economic sociology.

General Overviews

By the time Peterson and Anand 2004 provided an overview of the production of culture perspective in the Annual Review of Sociology, several textbooks and anthologies had already appeared with “the production of culture” in their titles (e.g., Crane 1992; Ryan and Wentworth 1998; du Gay 1997; Power and Scott 2004). Additional evidence of the broad influence and consecration of this perspective is found in a special issue assessing the scholarly contributions of Richard A. Peterson that highlighted application of the production perspective to science, theory, art and literature, organizations, and consumption (Ryan and Hughes 2000). A review essay in Poetics (Janssen and Peterson 2005) and a review issue on production perspectives solely within music sociology (Dowd 2004) also provide useful summaries.

  • Crane, Diana. 1992. The production of culture: Media and the urban arts. London: SAGE.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781483325699

    Accessible overview of production of culture research with particular focus on organizations that create and circulate cultural goods. Considers both fine arts and popular culture as well as issues of stratification and inequality. The size of the audience and industry structure are linked to variations in production of culture.

  • Dowd, Timothy J., ed. 2004. Music in society: The sociological agenda. Poetics 32:235–246.

    Introduction focuses on production perspective in studies of music. Issue features contributions from top music sociologists, including programmatic statements and empirical studies. The latter include diverse examples such as jazz, rap, and sacred harp music.

  • du Gay, Paul. 1997. Production of culture: Cultures of production. London: SAGE.

    Closely tied to cultural studies tradition. Takes a global focus on culture industries and how cultural products are produced, marketed, and sold. Considers organizational strategies as well as the importance of corporate culture in culture-producing organizations. Shows how economic processes impinge on the production, circulation, and exchange of culture.

  • Janssen, Susanne, and Richard A. Peterson, eds. 2005. Comparative research on cultural production and consumption. Poetics 33.5–6: 253–416.

    Janssen and Peterson call for more comparative work on cultural production in their introduction. Special issue features articles that include cross-national or cohort comparisons. Substantively, studies include cultural consumption, book reading, literary writers, musicians, actors, dancers, and cultural education.

  • Peterson, Richard A., and N. Anand. 2004. The production of culture perspective. Annual Review of Sociology 30:311–334.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110557

    Useful introduction to production of culture. Outlines six “constraints” or facets associated with the production of culture perspective: law, technology, organizational structure, occupation, industry structure, markets. Reviews studies that address each facet. Discusses criticisms of production of culture research and offers directions for future research.

  • Power, Dominic, and Allen J. Scott, eds. 2004. Cultural industries and the production of culture. New York: Routledge.

    Features interdisciplinary and international contributions. Examples span cultural production in the core and periphery of global culture industries. Addresses links between cultural economy and urban spaces.

  • Ryan, John, and Michael Hughes, eds. 2000. Special issue: The production and consumption of culture: Essays on Richard A. Peterson’s contributions to cultural sociology. Poetics 28.2–3: 91–233.

    Special issue devoted to work and influence of Peterson. Provides overview of Peterson’s scholarship and the production of culture perspective. Addresses relevance of production of culture to understanding scientific change, organizational theory, cultural theory, and more. Examples span domains of art, literature, music.

  • Ryan, John, and William M. Wentworth. 1998. Media and society: The production of culture in the mass media. New York: Prentice-Hall.

    Interdisciplinary focus on the role of mass media in social life in post-industrial society. Second half of the book takes production of culture approach to explore how technology, law, industry structure, and occupational careers shape the production of mass media.

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