City Research Online

The Interpretation of Cultures: Geertz Is Still in Town

Susen, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0643-1891 (2024). The Interpretation of Cultures: Geertz Is Still in Town. Sociologica – International Journal for Sociological Debate, 18(1), pp. 25-63. doi: 10.6092/issn.1971-8853/18664


Clifford Geertz’s The Interpretation of Cultures (1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important contributions to the humanities and social sciences in general and anthropology in particular. On its 50th anniversary, the literature drawing on this monumental work is so vast that it is hard to see how anything of significance may still be added to the wide range of insights gained from the in-depth engagement with its main argument. The noticeable differences in opinion between followers and detractors of Geertz’s project notwithstanding, most commentators will agree that The Interpretation of Cultures, having dominated the agenda of Anglophone anthropology for at least two decades after its publication, has had a major and lasting impact on neighbouring disciplines and subdisciplines — notably sociology, social psychology, politics, history, philosophy, and cultural studies. This paper aims to demonstrate that the key conceptual components of Geertz’s enterprise can be located in his case for an interpretive theory of culture, epitomized in the methodological commitment to providing a ‘thick description’. The first half of this paper comprises an inquiry into the core assumptions underlying Geertz’s defence of this endeavour, before moving, in the second half, to an assessment of some controversial issues arising from his approach.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Anthropology, culture, Geertz (Clifford), interpretation, thick description
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Susen Simon (2024) 'The Interpretation of Cultures. Geertz Is Still in Town' Sociologica  International Journal for Sociological Debate 18(1) pp. 25-63.pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

Download (290kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login