Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) was a prominent German philosopher, intellectual historian, and one of the first modern, systematic theorists of cultural studies. Although he sometimes addressed political and sociological topics, his influence on contemporary sociological theory is largely indirect. Cassirer is mainly important to sociology because of the position that he occupied in the German intellectual field at a critical historical juncture, the way he addressed the research problems at hand, and the influence that he had on a subsequent generation of scholars who went on to create their own influential theoretical programs in the cultural and social sciences. Three of Cassirer’s ideas are particularly relevant to the concerns of sociologists — his distinction between substantialism and relationalism (as developed in his writings on science), his conceptualization of cultural analysis (as worked out within his various studies of cultural fields) and his approach to understanding institutional logics as the deep structures that order symbolic systems which are interlinked together into articulated wholes (as expressed in his efforts to construct a general philosophy of symbolic forms)
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