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feminists have pointed out – as have some

French feminists – the importance of women,

rather than men, defining female sexuality.


Lesbian Studies

Like gay studies, this is a product of the identity

politics of the 1960s and is closely associated with

lesbian feminism, which argued that women could

still be marginalized and silenced even within

the women’s movement. Radical lesbian activists

argued that the interests of women were not best

served without the rejection of female heterosexuality,

and hence lesbian studies is not identical

with women’s studies.

In the United States the National Organization of

Women adopted a resolution in 1971 that supported

lesbians. In 1991 the Center for Lesbian and

Gay Studies was founded in the Graduate Center of

the City University of New York. A non-profit organization,

the Lesbian Studies Institute was formed in

1995. The first National Lesbian Conference in the

United Kingdom took place in Canterbury in 1974

and a Coordinating Committee was established in

Lenski, Gerhard (1924– ) Lesbian Studies


1975. In the 1970s therefore lesbian communities

sprang up and were influenced by “second-wave

feminism” viewing lesbianism as an expression of

alternative values such as co-operation, a caring

ethic, and egalitarianism. Lesbianism rejected the

competitive and aggressive culture associated with

masculinity and patriarchy. Lesbians came to reject

the heterosexuality of traditional female social

roles embracing androgynous styles such as Tshirts

and blue jeans, and rejecting bras, lipstick,

and jewelry.

In Sex and Sensibility (1997) Arlene Stein has

examined how lesbian identities were constructed

in the 1970s, but by the 1990s a narrow lesbian

identity had become much more diverse, fragmented,

and complex. Many black women felt

excluded by the primarily middle-class, white lesbianism

of the 1970s. There was also a tendency to

reject lesbianism as a political category in order to

explore sexual desire within a lesbian framework.

Lillian Faderman in Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers

(1991) describes the diverse subcultures of the lesbian

movement, such as “lipstick lesbians,” “punk

lesbians” and “s&m lesbians.” The lesbian community

is also fragmented around generational differences.

Older lesbian women, like older gay

men, face special difficulties since they have spent

much of their lives hiding their sexuality prior to

the lesbian social movements of the 1970s.

Several academic journals now publish research

on lesbian life and culture. The Journal of Lesbian

Studies examines the cultural, historical, and interpersonal

impact of the lesbian experience on society.

Another journal is GLQ – a journal of lesbian and

gay studies (launched in 1994). Hypatia and Lesbian

Ethics deal with philosophical and ethical issues.

Handbook of Lesbian & Gay Studies (2002), edited by

Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, provides a

rich guide to this diverse field of social science

research. Research related to lesbianism is organized

and promoted by the National Consortium of

Directors of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual

Resources in Higher Education in the United


Lesbian Studies faces the same dilemma as gay

studies. There is a need to criticize mainstream

social science literature for its neglect of gay and

lesbian cultures, but there is also the problemof the

academic co-option of lesbian politics and identity.

Despite the proliferation of books about lesbian

and gay studies, relatively little is known empirically

about how gay and lesbian people organize

their daily lives, including their sexual practices.

While the sociology of sex is underdeveloped,

historical, philosophical, and literary studies of

sexuality experienced a vigorous growth in the

late twentieth century. BRYAN S. TURNER

Le´vi-Strauss, Claude (1908– )

The leading French anthropologist of the second

half of the twentieth century, Le´vi-Strauss has had

a discernible impact on thinkers as diverse as

Simone de Beauvoir, Fernand Braudel (1902–85),

Mary Douglas, and Jacques Derrida (1930–2004). In

the first of some dozen major works, The Elementary

Structures of Kinship (1949 [trans. 1969]), he

demonstrates that unilineal kinship systems

prescribing the marriage of cousins are logically

equivalent to systems of reciprocal exchange.

Against the consensus at the time, he argues that

the incest prohibition is not merely the first of

all cultural rules but also a prescription in negative

form to marry outside the family; hence, kinship

systems generally should be understood

first as systems of alliance and only derivatively

as systems of descent.

He is most widely known as part-founder, and the

leading exponent, of structuralism. For Le´vi-Strauss,

function rarely if ever exhaustively determines

structure. Structure properly speaking is the property

of logical models of a finite number of elements,

each of which stands in a fully determinate

relationship to every other. Those of proper interest

to the anthropologist are generative of meaning.

None is more instructive than the linguistic model

of the phonemic system, a matrix of binarily opposed

phonic qualities specific to each language

that in their several permutations yield the minimal

functional building blocks of words and

sentences. In The Savage Mind (1962 [trans. 1966]),

Le´vi-Strauss accordingly offers a portrait of the

primitive bricoleur or “tinkerer” whose habits of

mind tend spontaneously towards the ordering

of the finite data of sensory experience into a

closed, atemporal totality of analogical pairings of

the elements of two fundamental, binarily opposed

series, one natural and the other cultural. In the

four magisterial volumes of The Mythologiques (1964

[trans. 1969], 1966 [trans. 1971], 1968 [trans. 1978],

1971 [trans. 1981]), he presumes that the same

habits of mind and the same binary opposition

between nature and culture underlie the genesis

of myth. He replaces the model of the source-text

and its diffusion with that of the version and its

permutations; he rejects psychoanalytic, cosmogonic,

and all substantialist interpretations of

mythological symbolism and defends instead the

thesis that mythology is a recoding of ordinary

language, the meaning of whose elements is determined

exclusively by the relations they bear to

Lesbian Studies Le´vi-Strauss, Claude (1908– )


other elements of the same recoding. Because

myths resolve and so mask at the symbolic level

metaphysical and social problems that cannot be

resolved in fact, they function “ideologically” in

the Marxist sense of that term. Le´vi-Strauss indeed

pronounces his anthropology a contribution both

to the science of superstructures and to theoretical

psychology. Critics such as Pierre Bourdieu thus

object to his relative neglect of human interaction.

Others object to his formalistic and speculative

excesses. Still other criticisms such as poststructuralism

reject in principle his attempt to accord theoretical

primacy to structure over history and the



Liberalism is essentially a modern outlook, although

aspects of liberalism can be found among

the Sophists of ancient Greece with their argument

that the state is not natural, but conventional.

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was one of the

earliest liberals in Britain, and what makes

Hobbes a liberal is the abstract individual premises

underpinning his argument for a strong sovereign

state. Classical liberalism, until the late

eighteenth century, subscribed to a state-of-nature

thesis, in which humans were seen as naturally

equal, living outside both state and society, and

consenting to form the latter through a social

contract. It is the universality of this freedom

and equality that makes liberalism so subversive

historically. All individuals are in theory free and

equal, so that liberalism refuses to accept that

repressive hierarchies are natural. Hobbes is

quintessentially liberal in his argument that

people, by nature, seek to govern themselves:

they have inalienable rights. Although Hobbes

supported the conservative side during the English

Civil War, it was the liberal premises of his

argument that accounted for the reservations felt

towards him by the royalists.

Much more conventionally liberal is the work of

John Locke (1632–1704). Locke makes the case for a

constitutionally governed state. Whereas both he

and Hobbes saw the state as authorized through

consent and contract, Locke limits the prerogatives

of the state to a defense of private property

and allows radically dissatisfied citizens the right

to overthrow an oppressive state.

While the classical liberals argued that the state is

conventional and artificial, they all take the view

that the state is necessary, because, for one reason

or another, a state of nature cannot be sustained.

Even Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), who argues

that the individual is reconstituted by the social

contract, states that individuals have a freedom

that is natural and inalienable. For this reason, he

too is a liberal, even though his critics fear that a

“legitimate” state, governed by the general will,

might exercise extensive powers in making people


Towards the end of the eighteenth century, liberals

came to reject the notion of the state

of nature. They accepted that individuals have

always lived in a society, and the idea that the

state is the creation of a social contract was seen

as implausible. Nevertheless, liberals continued to

operate with a notion of the individual that abstracts

him or her (it is usually a him) from social

relationships. Rousseau is unashamedly patriarchal

in his assumption that the citizen must be

a man (and much else besides), and this led Mary

Wollstonecraft (1759–97) to complain bitterly that

Rousseau’s support for autonomy and freedom

did not apply to women. While the utilitarians

may have rejected the notion of “natural rights,”

they too accepted that individuals should be conceived

as separate, atomistic beings whose freedom

can be expressed in a purely abstract way.

Society remains external to the individual, even

when liberals speak of the social nature of


It is the abstraction of individuals from social

relationships that make them what they are, that

accounts for the necessary tension between the

universal theory preached by liberals and the reality

of their actual practice. Liberals historically

supported slavery (a property right, after all),

elitism, patriarchy, colonialism, and the political

power of the middle classes, and it is only in the

twentieth century that liberals have supported

the case for democratic rule. The key to understanding

this apparent paradox is the liberal

view that the market is natural and the desire to

appropriate private property is linked to human

nature. By property is meant not simply possessions,

but possessions that can generate sufficient

income to sustain people independently.

It is because individuals naturally appropriate

property privately that men are favored over

women; the family is seen as a mechanism for

transferring property from father to son; rationality

is identified with appropriation; the propertyless

are excluded from the franchise; “lesser”

people are colonized by the “civilized”; and,

given the conflicts that the private ownership of

property generates, liberals support the case for

the state. It is revealing that John Stuart Mill

could argue in his famous On Liberty (1859) that

not only is force necessary when individuals

liberalism liberalism


harm society, but certain individuals (like Native

Americans, for example) are not “ready” for selfgovernment

and must be ruled by others. Just how

freedom and the state are to be reconciled

remains an insoluble problem for liberals, since

freedom is (rightly) deemed the absence of force,

and yet the state, though artificial in most liberal

accounts, is seen as necessary.

Critics of liberalism argue that its notion of freedom

allows for license and even self-destruction,

but we should not take abstract premises of liberal

concepts at face value. They are tied to the

notion of private property, and therefore the exercise

of liberal values is linked to this institution. It

is not surprising that liberalism has unwittingly

generated a whole range of ideologies that seek to

bring liberal theory into accord with social practice.

Anarchists argue that the state is a barrier to

freedom; socialists, that freedom and equality

must be social as well as political and legal. Feminists

protest that individuality, if it is to be universal,

must apply to women as well as men, while

environmentalists and animal rights supporters

contend that egalitarian attitudes need to extend

well beyond humanity.

Modern liberals have extended the notion of

freedom into social spheres so that in Britain, for

example, the architect of the welfare state was a

liberal. Nor do modern liberals see the market as

an autonomous, self-regulating entity, but make

the case – John Maynard Keynes was another great

British liberal – for intervention by the state, and

the role of collective institutions such as trade

unions and cooperatives, to secure social justice.

Social liberals can be quite close to socialists, but

arguably social liberals seek to make a capitalist

society fair and humane, rather than transform it.

The notion of the individual seeking to realize

their freedom through the acquisition of private

property remains at the heart of the theory.


life chances

This notion refers to the access that an individual

has to valued social and economic goods such as

education, health care, or high income. For Karl

Marx, life chances were determined by social class

position, with members of the working classes

having structurally determined poorer life chances

than those in the ruling class. Max Weber

agreed with Marx that the individual’s relationship

to the means of production were an important

determinant of life chances. However, he

argued that there were other sources of power

that could also determine them. In particular he

referred to the formation of status groups. Highsocial-

status groups are accorded honor and esteem

and have a lifestyle, based on consumption

rather than production, which gives them a privileged

position in society, independently of their

economic position. While economically dominant

classes will successfully consolidate themselves as

high-status groups, Weber argued that this was

not always the case. For example, some economically

successful groups, such as the nouveaux

riches, still find themselves excluded from the

higher reaches of society. Alternatively, impoverished

aristocrats in European societies are accorded

high social status and esteem, allowing

them to benefit from their access to the economically

successful. Weber’s fundamental point in developing

the concept of life chances and status

groups was to balance Marx’s economic determinism

with an account of social life that emphasized

that it was the meaning individuals gave to their

life experiences that shaped their formation into

communities. KEVIN WHI TE


Although the life-cycle follows a linear biological

trajectory from birth to death, sociologists and gerontologists

emphasize the role of historical, social,

and cultural context in aging and in shaping

trajectories of individual development. Indebted to

the insight of the German sociologist, Karl Mannheim,

who argued in Ideology and Utopia (1936) that

different social and historical settings produce different

perspectives, life-course researchers investigate

how the timing of sociobiographical events,

such as graduation or marriage, at a particular age

interfaces with specific historical or generational

events and the social context in which they are

experienced (for example, G. Elder, “The Life

Course as Developmental Theory,” 1998, Child Development).

They examine how variation in, among

other contextual characteristics, family structure

and background, gender, race, religion, occupation,

and social class differentially impact how aging

and life-course transitions (for example, adolescence,

getting a first job, parenthood, retirement,

or chronic illness) are negotiated. Life-course researchers

pay attention to how the contextual specificity

of, for example, being a college-age student

rather than a preteen or the middle-aged parent of

a college-age student in the 1990s will lead to different

constellations of experiences that in turn

may differentiate the subsequent demographic

and other life-course events of these different

individuals (and their age peers). The biggest challenge

confronting studies of the life-course is

life chances life-course


disentangling the discrete effects of, and interactions

between, age, cohort, and historical period

on life-course patterns. Longitudinal studies that

follow the same individuals from multiple cohorts

and across time allow researchers to identify what

trajectories may be specific to a particular cohort

growing up in particular sociohistorical context

and what may be generalizable primarily to age

or to a particular life-course transition or event.



– see life-course.

life expectancy

– see age.


This refers to relatively distinctive patterns of

action and culture that differentiate people. In

this respect, the study of lifestyles is less concerned

with individual idiosyncrasy than with expressive

modes of behavior that forge collective

patterns of living. Many sociologists have utilized

lifestyle rather than other terms like subculture as

it does not necessarily imply a deviant relationship

to the dominant culture. Instead the study of

lifestyle is employed to emphasize distinctions at

the level of practice within wider frameworks of

culture and power.

In particular, many sociologists following Pierre

Bourdieu in Distinction (1979 [trans. 1984]) sought

to emphasize how, in modern class-based societies,

lifestyles serve to distinguish some groups

from others as well as providing the conditions for

in-group solidarity. Hence some lifestyles are able

to gain a wider social legitimacy at the expense of

other ways of life. In this sense, lifestyle is closely

connected to the unequal distribution of symbolic

resources and power in society. Further, having a

lifestyle depends upon certain cultural markers

and the ability to establish boundaries on the

basis of taste. However, the cultural codes that

serve to legitimize some lifestyle groupings are

not fixed and are the subject of intense contestation

and cultural change. More recently, following

the work of Anthony Giddens in Modernity

and Self-Identity (1991), there has been a trend to

view lifestyle as a reflexive product and to argue

that it has certain political connotations that are

not limited solely to the competition over social

status. Lifestyles in this understanding are still

concerned with wider questions of social legitimacy,

but become increasingly focused on “how we

should live” in a global world. NICK STEVENSON


This refers to the taken-for-granted world of our

experience. It is our “common sense,” our everyday

attitude about ourselves, others, and the objective

world. It is shaped by shared meanings, symbols,

and language.

The philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859–1938)

developed the idea of the lifeworld in The Crisis of

the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology

(1936 [trans. 1970]). He founded the philosophy

of phenomenology, which investigates the

rules of consciousness which structure experience,

the ways in which we organize our reality

so that it appears to us as integrated and authentic.

For Husserl, the lifeworld supplies the underlying

cultural harmony and the rules that govern

our beliefs about what is real and normal. The

lifeworld also provides the background for science,

which extends taken-for-granted beliefs in

a systematic manner.

Yet Husserl did not explore the social and cultural

dimensions of the common lifeworld experience

in depth, as he was interested in formal

philosophical issues. Alfred Schutz developed a

sociology of the lifeworld and a social phenomenology.

For Schutz, the lifeworld is a shared,

common world of culture. Our lifeworld beliefs

are based on typifications, the assumptions and

taken-for-granted knowledge through which people

interpret and classify one another in everyday

life. Individuals draw on their life experience,

their biographies, to understand one another.

Social scientific research confronts a lifeworld

rich in meanings and interpretations. For Schutz,

the categories of science derive from the lifeworld.

The ideal types, the most general ideas about

the social world which social scientists utilize, are

based on everyday typifications. All knowledge

begins from commonsense and cannot be separated

from the social context in which it emerges.

Schutz argues that a satisfactory social science

must begin with an understanding of the subjective

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