'Profane' rather than 'secular': Daniel Bell as cultural sociologist and critic of modern culture

Eduardo de la Fuente

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Daniel Bell's writings are often cast as offering a contemporary jeremiad regarding the corrosive effects of culture upon the modern economic and social order. In this paper, I take the opposite approach and argue that Bell is a sensitive cultural analyst who is claiming that human experience ought not to be deprived of culture – understood as symbol and myth that tap into the felt need for human transcendence. Bell could therefore be seen as a strong advocate for the concept of culture, and for a cultural sociology. It is only that the modern (and postmodern) versions of culture do not realize the full potential of culture to move and inspire human actors. The conclusion is reached that what ails modern culture is neither rationalization nor secularization, but rather what Bell termed the ‘Great Profanization’. Rendering culture profane is much more serious, and deleterious, than any of the other specific dynamics sociologists have diagnosed regarding modern culture.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)105-115
    Number of pages11
    JournalThesis Eleven
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


    • cultural sociology
    • Daniel Bell
    • the ‘Great Profanization’
    • ‘return of the sacred’


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