Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

David R. Dickens

Number of Pages



Over the past two decades, American sociologists have debated about the postmodern and what we might call "postmodern American sociology" began to emerge at the turn of this century. This dissertation examines the nature of the postmodern in general, and postmodern American sociology in particular, in terms of three models of knowledge: science, morality, and aesthetics; This dissertation pays close attention to the fact that science, morality, and aesthetics began to be differentiated from religion in the modern era, which posited two problems: the problem of legitimacy of knowledge and the problem of figuring out the relationship among science, morality, and aesthetics. It sees the modern as a specific way to address these two problems. About the first problem, the modern derived legitimacy of knowledge from the idea of progress: progress in science and technology will lead to the improvement in material well-being as well as the moral perfection of individuals and societies. About the second problem, the modern presented two positions. The Enlightenment tried to reintegrate science, morality, and aesthetics into society according to scientific laws while the Counter-Enlightenment did so according to moral laws. In this sense, the modern is defined as the scientization and moralization of ontology, epistemology, and ethics/politics, which proceeded from the 17th century to the early 1960s in Western societies; This dissertation also observes how the process of dedifferentiation, a process of social entropy leading to the collapse of boundaries, is changing the two issues associated with the modern. It is increasingly difficult to derive legitimacy of each knowledge from the idea of progress because science and morality become contested arenas mainly by the implosive impact of electronically-mediated culture industry on ontology, epistemology, and ethics/politics. The process of dedifferentiation also makes the problem of integration of science, morality, and aesthetics into society outdated by refiguring them in terms of the state of incommensurability. In this sense, the postmodern is defined as the aestheticization of ontology, epistemology, and ethics/politics, which has proceeded from the early 1960s on in advanced Western societies; This dissertation examines the nature of postmodern American sociology by situating it within this general relationship between the modern and the postmodern. It investigates how sociology has been based on the modern, excluding the aesthetic, how the postmodern as the aesthetic challenge is threatening the modern discipline of sociology, and how some American sociologists, especially critical and interactionist sociologists, form postmodern American sociology in the course of responding to the aesthetic challenge. Finally, this dissertation proposes that postmodern American sociology needs multi- or trans-disciplinary approaches for addressing the postmodern, the core of which is the synthesis of poststructuralist linguistics and post-Marxist political economy.


American; Aesthetic; Challenge; Postmodern; Poststructuralism; Response; Sociology

Controlled Subject

Social sciences--Research

File Format


File Size

7639.04 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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