The sociology of culture is mainly concerned with the cognitive meanings manifested in society. Georg Simmel once said that, culture referred to "the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history."
The term Cultural sociology was born in Weimar Germany from the term Kultursoziologie (cultural sociology). In the 1960s, the term cultural sociology started to be redefined in the light of a structuralist ‘post-modern’ perspective. This approach of cultural sociology incorporated the cultural analysis and critical theory of culture as well. Culture has always held a very important place across many branches of sociology, even scientific fields like social stratification and social network analysis.
The sociology of culture hermeneutically emphasizes on words, artifacts and symbols, critically rejecting scientific methods. However, sociologists of culture who are, confusingly, not cultural sociologists, do not admit postmodern aspects of cultural sociology. They are keen on searching for a theoretical backing in social psychology and cognitive science.
The sociology of culture as a scope of study was the result of the intersection and interaction between sociology and anthropology. The thoughts of early theorists like Marx, Durkheim, and Weber did amalgam with the growing discipline of anthropology to describe and analyze a variety of cultures around the world with special concerns on the fields like popular culture, political control, and social class
The early researchers who were the torchbearers of the discipline of sociology of culture are:
Karl Marx has been one of the major contributors of the Conflict Theory. His ideals dealt with culture to a great extent. However, his idea of culture interestingly emphasized that those who live in the ruling class are the most powerful members of a society. They are the ones who design the culture of the society. His theory also described that of a society’s economic status determines the values and ideologies of their culture.
Émile Durkheim believed that culture has many relationships to society. They are:
Logical- Logical relationships are the powerful relationships over certain cultural categories, and beliefs such as God.
Functional- Certain rites and beliefs are integral to the society. Those help in building up social order by having people create strong beliefs.
Historical- Culture has its roots in society. The things such as classification systems are evolved from the society.
The idea of a status group as a certain type of subculture was developed by Weber. By the term status group, is meant a group based on things such as: race, ethnicity, religion, region, occupation, gender, sexual preference, etc. they have a certain lifestyle with a different set of values and norms unique to them. As they are a culture within a culture, they are labeled as subculture.
Weber also felt that material and ideal interests are the primary motivations of people. He also pointed out that symbols used by people are used to express the spiritual side of real events. There was yet another interesting site related to sociology of culture as Weber showed, - ideal interests are derived from symbols.
Simmel explained that to 'the cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history'. His analysis of culture was based on a context of 'form' and 'content'.