Index of Papers:

1. Cultural Capital:

2. Duality & Institutional Logics:

3. Fields (Theory & Measurement):

4. Historical & Archival Methods:

5. Meaning & Measurement:

6. Politics & Discourse:
Diversity & Affirmative Action

7. Politics & Discourse:
National Security Strategies

8. Politics & Discourse:
Poverty Policies

9: Science Studies:

10: Text Mining & Content Analysis







The Intergenerational Transmission of Cultural Capital
(with Paul DiMaggio):

Our task in this paper then is to explore three different models of the intergenerational transmission of cultural capital. First, we will look for factors that are hypothesized to be correlated with parents' own levels of cultural capital. Second, we will be looking for factors that we hypothesize may be associated with parents' likelihood of investing strategically in their children's stock of cultural capital. And, third, we will seek to identify factors that we think are correlated with the exposure that children will receive to cultural capital net of the experience they may have in their own household

John W. Mohr and Paul DiMaggio. 1995.
"The Intergenerational Transmission of Cultural Capital."
Research in Social Stratification and Mobility
Volume 14, p. 169-200.

Published Figures
Table 4 Appendix

Cultural Capital, Educational Attainment and Marital Selection
(with Paul DiMaggio):

Although Weber distinguished sharply between "class" (an individual's market position) and "status" (participation in a collectivity bound together by a shared status culture), only measures of the former have been included in most empirical analyses of the stratification process. In this article a measure of status-culture participation (or cultural capital) is developed from the responses of men and women interviewed in 1960 by Project Talent. Questions tapped a range of high-cultural interests and activities. Analyses of data from a follow-up study 11 years later show significant effects of cultural capital (with appropriate controls) on educational attainment, college attendance, college completion, graduate attendance, and marital selection for both men and women.

Go to Index (top)

Paul DiMaggio and John W. Mohr. 1985.
"Cultural Capital, Educational Attainment and Marital Selection."
American Journal of Sociology
, Vol. 90, no. 6:1231-1261.

"Cultural Capital"

Cultural capital refers to an accumulation of cultural skills and stocks of knowledge that individuals can usefully deploy in a given institutional setting.   Originally coined by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to explain how early training in high culture promoted the reproduction of social class in the French educational system, the term is increasingly used in a more general sense to refer to how particular forms of cultural knowledge and embodied expertise can be counted as market assets and also as resources that influence success within particular institutional fields....

John W. Mohr. 2008. “Cultural Capital.”
International Encyclopedia of Organization Studies,
Stewart Clegg and James R. Bailey (eds).
Volume 1, pp. 343-345.
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.



Duality & Institutional Logics:


Modeling Foucault: Dualities of Power in Institutional Fields:
Brooke Neely)


The work of Michel Foucault is taken as inspiration for a study of the organizational field of asylums, prisons, orphanages, and other carceral organizations operating in New York City in 1888.  Foucault argues that institutional power is organized into dually ordered system of truth and power.  Using text data describing the clients and institutional technologies (organizational “power signatures”) of 168 organizations, we apply structural equivalence methods to unpack speech activity, showing that as Foucault suggests, there may be dually ordered sub-domains of truth and power that help define the broader institutional logic of this institutional field.


Modeling Foucault: Dualities of Power in Institutional Fields.
(w/ Brooke Neely)

Pp.203-256 in Ideology and Organizational Institutionalism,
(Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 2009),

Renate Meyer, Kerstin Sahlin-Andersson,
Marc Ventresca, Peter Walgenbach (eds).


Fig. 1


Fig. 2


Fig. 3



Fig. 4


Fig. 5


Fig. 7


See Research Gate and pages

How to Model an Institution:
(w/ Harrison White)

Institutions are linkage mechanisms that bridge across three kinds of social divides — they link micro systems of social interaction to meso (and macro) levels of organization, they connect the symbolic with the material, and the agentic with the structural. Two key analytic principles are identified for empirical research, relationality and duality.   These are linked to new research strategies for the study of institutions that draw on network analytic techniques.  Two hypotheses are suggested.  (1) Institutional resilience is directly correlated to the overall degree of structural linkages that bridge across domains of level, meaning and agency.   (2) Institutional change is related to over-bridging, defined as the sustained juxtaposition of multiple styles within the same institutional site.  Case examples are used to test these contentions.  Institutional stability is examined in the case of Indian caste systems and American academic science.   Institutional change is explored in the case of the rise of the early Christian church and in the origins of rock and roll music


Mohr, John W.  and Harrison C. White. 
(2008) “How to Model an Institution.” 
Theory and Society
, 37:485-512.

“Theorizing the Institution:
Foundations, Duality and Data.”
( With Roger Friedland

Although a central construct for sociologists, the concept of institution continues to elude clear and full specification.  One reason for this lack of clarity is that about fifty years ago empirical researchers in the field of sociology turned their gaze downward, away from macro-sociological constructs in order to focus their attention on middle-range empirical projects.  It took almost twenty years for the concept of the institution to work its back onto the empirical research agenda of mainstream sociologists.  The new institutional project in organizational sociology led the way.  Since then scholars in this tradition have achieved a great deal but there is still much more to accomplish.  Here, future directions for research are considered by reviewing how the concept of the institution has come to be treated by mainstream philosophers, sociologists of science and technology studies and social network theorists.  



Mohr, John W. and Roger Friedland.
(2008) “Theorizing the Institution:
Foundations, Duality and Data.”
Theory and Society
, 37:421-426.





Institutional Logics from the Aggregation of Organizational Networks
(w/ Ronald L. Breiger)

...In this paper we bring together several themes. We posit (in Section 2 and in Section 3.3) a dialectic that unifies, within a common frame of analysis, (a) invariance among organizational actors within structurally equivalent sets and (b) variation in the network ties between those sets. We present operational procedures for quantifying both the invariance and the variation. We apply our aggregation procedures to organizational networks conceived as tables of counts of connections or resources that circulate among actors. We examine a citation network among journals (Section 3; data of Coombs, 1964) and the discourse roles among hundreds of organizational agencies engaged in diversity practices within the University of California following the legal prohibition on affirmative action (Section 4; data of Mohr et al., 2002)...

Breiger, Ronald L. and John W. Mohr. 2004. “Institutional Logics from the Aggregation of Organizational Networks: Operational Procedures for the Analysis of Counted Data.” Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, 10: 17-43.
<Link to PDF Version>

La Dualidad y la Agregación de Categorías Sociales

(with Ronald L. Breiger).

"Duality” is a conception of micro-macro linkage that implies that elements at each of two different levels of structure (such as persons and groups, or—as in the data we analyze—identities and practices) co-constitute one another. We present an algorithm for the aggregation of social categories that are “dual” to each other. Our algorithm is applicable to the study of data in contingency tables. We apply our algorithm in a study of the joint construction of social identities (including racial and ethnic labels) and educational (outreach) practices in a university context.

Breiger, Ronald L. and John W. Mohr. 2004. “La Dualidad y la Agregación de Categorías Sociales.” REDES – Revista Hispana para el Análysis de Redes Sociales, 5 (2004).
See Research Gate and pages

Comparison of Dual Orderings in Time
(withVincent Duquenne and Annick Le Pape):

The aim of the present methodological note is to refine the analysis along three directions. First, to screen thoroughly the source data, through the basic tools of Lattice Analysis (orders on words, treatments, their Galois Lattice...). Second, to make use of some more sophisticated tools like basis of implications...or the canonical splits that express incompatibilities and exclusions between words and treatments...and the Galois lattice un-gluing into regular intervals.... The third direction is to complete these synchronic views by comparing the findings in 1888 and 1917, and to address the question of what was either stable or different over two orderings in time.


Vincent Duquenne, John W. Mohr and Annick Le Pape. 1998. “Comparison of Dual Orderings in Time.” Social Science Information. Vol. 37:227-253
<link to publisher>

FIGURE 3 Regular intervals of the Galois lattice (1888)

FIGURE 4 Orders on practices and words (1917)

FIGURE 6 Regular intervals of the Galois lattice (1917)

FIGURE 7 The Galois lattice for the aggregation 1888-1917

FIGURE 8 Regular intervals for the aggregation 1888-1917

FIGURE 9 The Galois lattice for the consensus 1888 & 1917

The Duality of Culture and Practice
(w/ Vincent Duquenne)

...Our analysis relies upon a number of assumptions about the nature of institutional logics and the ways in which they ought to be studied. We begin the article by laying out these assumptions along with our rationales for adopting them. We start with a short discussion of Galois lattices, the methodological technique which we employ to analyze the patterns of linkages between categories and practices. As we will explain, lattices are a particularly appropriate tool because they illuminate the structural dualities which inhere within such a relationship. We then turn to a brief discussion of the nature of institutional logics, focusing in particular on those theorists who argue that there is an inherent duality between culture and practice. This is followed by a more precise account of the nature of structural dualities and a brief discussion of how these types of relationships characterize the history of social welfare institutions. Finally, we will turn to the formal models of the social welfare system in New York City as it existed in 1888 and 1917...

John W. Mohr and Vincent Duquenne. 1997.
"The Duality of Culture and Practice:
Poverty Relief in New York City, 1888-1917
Theory and Society
, (April/June) Vol. 26/2-3: 305-356.

See Research Gate and pages


Published Figures


Soldiers, Mothers, Tramps and Others: Discourse Roles in the 1907 New York City Charity Directory

...four more specific assumptions. First...enacted social practices. What concerns me about this discursive terrain is the fact that it has implications for the ways in which individuals are regarded and acted upon….Second, I assume that whatever else this moral order consists of, its principal and effective manifestation is to create social distinctions and to fit various social identities into a more or less organized pattern of associations—e.g., soldiers and mothers are worthy objects of state outdoor relief, the unemployed and the sick are not….Third, ... I argue that we can learn the greatest amount ... by looking at the way in which associations among status identities are structured as a totality….Finally, ... I suggest that we look for common patterns of association in the treatment profiles of various social identities...thinking of them as occupants of particular sorts of discursive roles...



(Winner Best Article Award, Culture Section of
the American Sociological Association, 1996)

John W. Mohr. 1994.
"Soldiers, Mothers, Tramps and Others:
Discourse Roles in the 1907 New York City Charity Directory
Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Literature, the Media, and the Arts
Vol. 22: 327-357.

<html link to publisher>




Go to Index (top)


“The Duality of Niche and Form:  The Differentiation of Institutional Space in New York City, 1888-1917.” 
(with Francesca Guerra-Pearson)


see below...In Fields (Theory & Measurement)






Fields (Theory & Measurement):



“The Duality of Niche and Form:  The Differentiation of Institutional Space in New York City, 1888-1917.” 
(with Francesca Guerra-Pearson)

Following in the footsteps of modern cultural theorists like Swidler (2001), we take up the study of institutional logics by analyzing systems of talk (discursive formations) in which participants take the institution itself as an object of conversation.  Our focus is on a community of social welfare organizations (in New York City) across a thirty-year period.  As is conventional for historical studies of organizational forms we use directories as source data but we use them in an unconventional way.  Remembering Friedland and Alford’s observation that, “(t)he routines of each institution are connected to rituals which define the order of the world and one’s position within it, rituals through which belief in the institution is reproduced” (1991:250), we think of our data as (ritualized) speech acts, authored by organizational agents who both express a common framework of understanding (necessary to participate successfully in a dialogic situation) and who also speak in strategic ways regarding a preferred vision of the field, including their perceived (or imagined or desired) location within it.  As Friedland and Alford remind us, “(m)aterial advantage is sought in terms of cultural categories which are institutionally located, frequently contested, and sometimes reordered.” (1991:245)...Here we ask whether the kind of dual mapping that ecologists have focused on in their studies of organizational populations might not also prove useful for seeing how speakers from different organizational populations locate themselves discursively within the institutional order.  To test this idea, we borrow a set of techniques from Miller McPherson, an early innovator in duality approaches to niche modeling, and we apply them to our data.


John W. Mohr and Francesca Guerra-Pearson.
“The Duality of Niche and Form: 
The Differentiation of Institutional Space
in New York City, 1888-1917.” 
Pp. 321-368 in:
Categories in Markets: Origins and Evolution,
(Volume 31, Research in the Sociology of Organizations)
Greta Hsu, Ozgecan Kocak, & Giacomo Negro (eds). Emerald Press.

See Research Gate and pages
<figures & Tables pdf download version>
<Appendix pdf download version>

Table 1 Table 2
Table 3
Table 4

Implicit Terrains
: Meaning, Measurement, and Spatial Metaphors in Organizational Theory

The interpretation of meaning is a critical problem for the study of markets and industries for two reasons. First, in a fundamental sense that I hope to make clear in this chapter, to understand and to explain the processes that drive markets and industries requires that we interpret the meanings that are in play there because meanings are embodied in social actions (and thus in social structures). But the pursuit of those meanings quickly leads us into unfamiliar terrain and thus into a second kind of problem. Meanings are notoriously difficult to manage within the frameworks of quantitative social science. Ethnographic field researchers can tell us a great deal about the “webs of significance” that are spun by their informants but those of us who study markets and industries from a less intimate vantage point are in a quandary. We can either approach meanings indirectly, relying on something rather like peripheral vision (this is mostly what we do now), or we can resolve to change how we study markets and industries. In this chapter I argue for a change...



John W. Mohr.
"Implicit Terrains: Meaning, Measurement,
and Spatial Metaphors in Organizational Theory

Unpublished MS.

<pdf download version>

ourdieu's Relational Method in Theory and Practice:

A key tenet of Bourdieu's project is his rejection of what he refers to as "substantialist" approaches to social science which he identifies with positivistic formal methodologies. In place of this, Bourdieu makes a compelling case for the use of a relational methodology in analyzing social life. His theorization of relationism is both sophisticated and far-reaching and it provides the foundation for many of his theoretical constructs. In spite of the richness of these theoretical formulations, however, Bourdieu's actual research practice tends to come up short, often reflecting the same sort of linear methodological presuppositions which he has otherwise so eloquently dismissed. Drawing upon an approach to relational analysis that takes inspiration from the American network analytic tradition, I seek to demonstrate in this paper how Bourdieu's research practices are far less relational than his theoretical statements would seem to suggest.


Go to Index (top)


John W. Mohr.
“Bourdieu's Relational Method in Theory and Practice.”

(Published in In Applying Relational Sociology.
Edited by François Dépelteau and Christopher Powell)


See Research Gate and pages




Historical & Archival Methods:



Archival Research Methods
(w/ Marc Ventresca):

...A new archival approach in organization science has emerged over the last decade. Like the ecological strategy before it, this “new archivalism” is steeped in the ethos and methods of formal social science. However, its practitioners dissent variously (at times, vigorously) from the methodological conventions of ecological research. Indeed, the new archivalists tend to share key sensibilities with the historiographic approach, including the concerns for exploring the meaning-laden, action-oriented foundations of organizational processes...

Marc Ventresca and John W. Mohr. 2002.
Archival Research Methods.”
Pages 805-828 in The Blackwell Companion to Organizations,
edited by Joel A. C. Baum. Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell Publishers.
<link to publisher>


Figure 1. Publication of Papers using Archival Methods, ASQ.


Table 1 "Three Modes of Archival Analysis"


Table 2 "Research Goals, Data Sources & Dominant Methods"

Using a Computer to 'Find Meaning' in Historical Texts

Interpretation is a critical dimension of historical research. Though we can never really know how historical subjects understood their situation, their actions, or the actions of others, we continually strive to do so. The work is difficult and complex. It demands careful attention to detail and an immersion in large quantities of primary source material. It is also the part of our work which we are most likely to associate with a more humanistic style of knowing. Increasingly, however, we are advancing on other ways of knowing, ways of using computers and formal methods of investigation to describe and measure the meanings which are embedded within historical texts. Moreover, with the proliferation of fast desktop computers and inexpensive scanners, I believe we are entering a new era of historical research, one in which computer assisted interpretation of textual materials will become a common activity, something that one routinely learns as a graduate student....<continue>

John W. Mohr. 1998.
“Using a Computer to 'Find Meaning' in Historical Texts.”

Newsletter of the Comparative & Historical Section of
the American Sociological Association
Vol. 10, No. 4.:1-6
<link to online version of text>


New Directions in Formalization and Historical Analysis

( with Roberto Franzosi):

...All of this then helps to explain how it was that the seemingly unobjectionable movement towards introducing a more rigorous approach to measuring things that happened in the past, became instead, the occasion for a surprisingly heated debate...As historians began to adopt a more social scientific posture, American sociology underwent its own revolution. With the repudiation of Parsonian functionalism, American sociologists jettisoned much of their naiveté about science and, in the process, they drew considerably closer to the sort of epistemological and methodological skepticism that had motivated much of the historians' criticisms...This trend has been especially visible among sociologists engaged in historical research who, over the years, have adopted an increasingly skeptical attitude about the possibilities of large scale trans-historical comparisons, moving much closer in the process towards the historians' position regarding the need to respect the particularities of specific historical contexts...


Go to Index (top)

Roberto Franzosi & John W. Mohr. 1997.
“New Directions in Formalization and Historical Analysis.”
Theory and Society
. Vol. 26, No. 2-3:133-160

See Research Gate and pages



Meaning & Measurement:



Four Ways to Measure Culture: Social Science, Hermeneutics, and the Cultural Turn
(with Craig Rawlings)

In this essay we review some of the ways that formal models have been used to study culture in the social sciences.  We make use of two distinctions.  We talk about the kinds of modeling projects that happened before as compared to those that happened after the sweep of cultural turns that moved through the social sciences over the last few decades. Second, we talk about types of modeling projects that have explicitly hermeneutic goals in comparison to those that don’t. Practitioners of the former sort want to use formal tools to make interpretations, to unlock useful readings of texts.  Those of the latter persuasion seek robust measures of cultural forms that can be fitted onto other explanatory frames.....We begin with a discussion of the nature of formal models in the social sciences.  We describe these as dually ordered systems of practice that are articulated into discursive formations that constitute distinctive styles of gathering, conceptualizing and analyzing data.  We compare this mode of scholarship to more hermeneutic styles of research and this leads us to comment briefly on recent debates over method.  The paper then shifts focus as we turn to a detailed discussion of four different types of formal modeling projects that have been especially important to the cultural sciences over the last century.   We conclude by revisiting the problem of how to theorize a scientific hermeneutics by comparing our theorization of the practice of data analysis to Ricoeur’s theorization of the practice of text analysis.


John W. Mohr and Craig Rawlings. 2011. 
“Four Ways to Measure Culture:
Social Science, Hermeneutics, and the Cultural Turn.”

Pp. 70-113 in the Oxford Handbook of Cultural Sociology,
edited by Jeffrey Alexander, Ronald Jacobs and Philip Smith. 
Oxford University Press.

See Research Gate and pages


(expand) Table 1


(expand) Table 2


Kroeber's Model of
Women's Fashions





Levi-Strauss's Model of Myths

“Ernst Cassirer:  Science, Symbols and Logic.”

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).






John W. Mohr,
“Ernst Cassirer:  Science, Symbols and Logic.”
  (2010) Pp. 113-122 in
Sociological Insights
of Great Thinkers:
From Aristotle to Zola
edited by
Christofer Edling
& Jens Rydgren.

See Research Gate and pages

Meanings and Relations: An Introduction to the Study of Language, Discourse, and Networks.
(with Corinne Kirchner)

This special issue offers papers that together reach toward sociological understanding of “meaning.” We contextualize that effort in intersecting intellectual trends—the emerging relational sociology of networks and meanings, which has progressed steadily since the 1990s, and the diverse enterprise of sociology of language, which is much less established in the U.S.  Given space limitations, we acknowledge others' work but concentrate on Harrison White's turn to language and linguistics, which influenced all the papers herein. We highlight each paper's contribution to a new relational sociology and new understanding of language as mechanism and methodology, which might change the study of agentic actions, social processes, politics, networks and institutions.



Corinne Kirchner and John W. Mohr.
Meanings and Relations:
An Introduction to the Study of Language
Discourse, and Networks.”
Poetics. Journal of
Empirical Research on Literature,
the Media, and the Arts. 
Special issue "
Toward a relational sociology of meaning:
language and socio-cultural processes."
Edited by Corinne Kirchner and John Mohr

See Research Gate and pages



“Formal Models of Culture.”
(with Craig Rawlings).

By our accounting, a formal model of culture is, first of all, an output from a quantitative study of collected data that seeks to describe, explain, interpret or otherwise represent some feature or aspect or content of culture.  As a model, the output has been transformed into a summary or a representation (in reduced form) of the data that purports to be analogous (in some fashion) to the phenomena under consideration. Thus it is precisely the use of quantitative methods, or the formal analysis of data, which is the distinguishing criterion for inclusion in the present classification. In this essay we trace some of the broad contours of change in the history of culture modeling. We simplify this task in two ways.  First, we focus on just one case, American sociology in its first century or so of professional formation.  Second, we highlight just one difference, distinguishing interpretative from non-interpretative intents. ....Our goal is to describe some major changes in how culture has been modeled by social scientists over the last century or so, but we will also say something about the enduring frictions between qualitative and quantitative styles of social scientific research.  Thus, in the final section of the essay we take up the question of how these two different modalities of knowledge production have been linked in the history of American sociology and we offer a preliminary interpretation of what this articulation structure says about the recurrent ‘Methods Wars.’

John W. Mohr and Craig Rawlings.
“Formal Models of Culture.”
pp. 118-128 in A Handbook of Cultural Sociology,
edited by John Hall, Laura Grindstaff, and Ming-Cheng Lo. Routledge.

See Research Gate and pages


Table 1.

The Cultural Turn in American Sociology
(w/ Roger Friedland):

American sociology is in the midst of a cultural turn. Where sociologists once spurned culture, associated as it was with the normative premises of Parsonian theory or with other kinds of idealisms, today they embrace it. Problems of meaning, discourse, aesthetics, value, textuality and narrativity, topics traditionally within the humanists’ purview, are now coming to the fore as sociologists increasingly emphasize the role of meanings, symbols, cultural frames and cognitive schema in their theorizations of social process and institution. This is happening across the intellectual landscape...<continue>


Roger Friedland and John W. Mohr. 2004.
The Cultural Turn in American Sociology.”
Pp. 1-68,
Matters of Culture:
Cultural Sociology in Practice
Cambridge University Press.

<html link to paper>

The Cultural Turn in American Sociology — A Report from the Field:

...What would we, as scholars, want to explain to our colleagues about the virtues of cultural analysis? What follows is a rather idiosyncratic list of 10 talking points that captures my own sense of how to respond to such a query.
1. Things go better with culture:
First, I would want to make clear that cultural sociology is not a sub-field of the discipline concerned with a particular institutional sphere (such as the arts, the media, or popular culture). Rather I would describe it as, first and foremost, an approach to sociological work that highlights the human
side of social phenomena, which is to say....


John W. Mohr 2003.
The Cultural Turn in American Sociology —
A Report from the Field

<link to Culture Archives>


As excerpted for Transcriptions. <link to Transcriptions>

Structures, Institutions, and Cultural Analysis:

Just as there is a certain intellectual homology between traditional (French-style) structuralism and social network analysis, so too is there an isomorphism between Bourdieu's "field theory" and the style of "field theory" that developed among the new institutionalists. Once again, the connections are hardly accidental as there has always been a steady flow of influence moving (at a minimum) from the East to the West. At the risk of seeming too cavalier in my formulation, I would like to suggest that these papers might begin to provide something of a counter-balance to this flow of intellectual capital and...I would emphasize that the greatest contribution of these papers is to be found in their furtherance of a more genuinely structuralist methodology.


John W. Mohr. 2000.
Structures, Institutions, and Cultural Analysis.
Poetics: Journal of Empirical
Research on Literature, the Media, and the Arts
Special Issue on
"Relational Analysis and Institutional Meanings:
Formal Models for the Study of Culture"
edited by John W. Mohr.
Vol. 27/2-3:57-68.

Measuring Meaning Structures

...The cultural turn which has recently swept through much of American sociology has meant that sociologists are ever more frequently focusing on the role of symbols, meanings, texts, cultural frames, and cognitive schemas in their theorizations of social processes and institutions. Although this resurgence of interest in cultural phenomena is often associated with the shift towards more humanistic and interpretative methodologies, an increasing number of quantitatively oriented scholars have also begun to turn their attention to the study of cultural meanings. In the process a new body of research has begun to emerge in which social practices, classificatory distinctions, and cultural artifacts of various sorts are being formally analyzed in order to reveal underlying structures of meaning...<continue>

Go to Index (top)

John W. Mohr. 1998. “Measuring Meaning Structures.” Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 24:345-70
<link to publisher>



Politics & Discourse:
Diversity & Affirmative Action



The Logic of Opportunity

(with Michael Bourgeois and Vincent Duquenne):

...Organizational fields can be thought of as arenas of social life that are focused upon the enactment of particular kind of institutional activities carried on through the conduct of a set of organizational actors. To implement these activities, organizational personnel within a field share communication with one another and with key organizational agents within their environment, construct systems of taken-for-granted understandings and standardized procedures for producing organizational action, evaluation, and resource allocation. As the new institutionalists have emphasized, the foundation of these institutional systems are repertoires of communicative activities that rely upon the use of empirically observable vocabularies of symbols employed in the service of generating mythical narratives (Meyer and Rowan, 1977). Scholars in this tradition have developed methods for tracking the rise and fall of symbolic activities within organizational fields and of showing the impact these communicative activities have upon organizational behavior (Meyer, Scott and Deal, 1983; Dobbin, Edelman, Meyer, Scott and Swidler, 1988; Dobbin, Sutton, Meyer and Scott, 1993). Less attention has been paid to the discourse systems themselves — what they are, how they work, what they mean?...<continue>


John Mohr, Michael Bourgeois, and Vincent Duquenne. 2004."The Logic of Opportunity: A Formal Analysis of the University of California's Outreach and Diversity Discourse"Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley, Research and Occasional Papers Series:
<link to online version of paper>

Institutional Contexts for Faculty Leadership in Diversity: A University of California-Santa Barbara Case Study.
(with Joseph Castro, Sarah Fenstermaker, and Debra Guckenheimer

In 1996 voters in California passed Proposition 209, a ballot initiative that disallowed more traditional forms of affirmative action at state-funded universities and colleges. A significant setback for progressives, it marked an initial decline in the diversity of incoming student cohorts (Anderson, 2002; Okong’o, 2006). Even so, the passage of Proposition 209 did not mark the end of affirmative action in California so much as the beginning of an era of programmatic initiative to achieve greater inclusiveness for women and people of color through alternative means (Pusser, 2004; Douglass, 2007). Using the University of California, Santa Barbara as a case study, we examine how one university responded to the challenges of a shifting terrain for affirmative action policies and the experiences of faculty members to a new institutional context for change.

Castro, Joseph, Sarah Fenstermaker, John W. Mohr, and Debra Guckenheimer. 2008.
“Institutional Contexts for Faculty Leadership in Diversity: A University of California-Santa Barbara Case Study.”  
Pps. 209-230 in
Doing Diversity in Higher Education:
Faculty Leaders Share Challenges and Strategies
Winnifred R. Brown-Glaude, (ed.). 
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

From Affirmative Action to Outreach
(with Helene Lee):

This paper investigates recent changes in diversity policies — from a program based on affirmative action to one based on outreach — at the University of California. Using a content analysis of a 1995 directory of UC programs we show that these developments are associated with a shift in institutional logic, from an individualistic emphasis on race to a corporatist discourse of class. The analyses include a new set of procedures for mapping the implicit meanings of a system of identity discourses. Drawing on a semiotic theory of interpretation (emphasizing the duality of culture and practice), we apply multidimensional scaling methods and McPherson's niche measurement techniques to identify and map overlapping regions of discursive space.



Go to Index (top)

John W. Mohr and Helene K. Lee. 2000.
From Affirmative Action to Outreach: Discourse Shifts at the University of California.”
Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Literature, the Media, and the Arts.
Special Issue on "Culture and Cognition" edited by Karen Cerulo Vol. 28/1:47-71.

Published Figures




Politics & Discourse:
National Security Strategies


“Narratives of National Security.” (Co-authored with Ron Breiger, Robin Wagner-Pacifici and Petko Bogdanov). Paper to be presented at the “Narratives of Insurgency, Conflict, and Security in Times of Transition” panel at International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association Meeting, Chapel Hill, NC., Oct 2012



“Textual Analysis of the State: Standing at the Intersection of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods of Interpretation.” Invited Presenter with Robin Wagner-Pacifici at, “Soon-to-be-author(s)-meet(s)-non-critics” session at the American Sociological Association Meeting, Denver, CO, Aug 2012


"Graphing the Grammar of Motives in U.S. National Security Strategies: Cultural Interpretation, Automated Text Analysis and the Drama of Global Politics"
(with Robin Wagner-Pacifici, Ronald Breiger and Petko Bogdanov)

The literary theorist Kenneth Burke (1945) outlined a methodology for identifying the basic “grammar of motives” that operate within texts. His strategy was to identify the logical form that is used for attributing meaning to human situations. We imagine how a variant of Burke's method might be applied in the era of automated text analysis, and then we explore an implementation of that variant (using a combination of natural language processing, semantic parsers and statistical topic models) in analyzing a corpus of eleven U.S. “National Security Strategy” documents that were produced between 1990 and 2010. This “automated” process for textual coding and analysis is shown to have much utility for analyzing these types of texts and to hold out the promise for being useful for other types of text corpora as well, thereby opening up new possibilities for the scientific study of rhetoric.

“Graphing the Grammar of Motives in U.S. National Security Strategies:
Cultural Interpretation, Automated Text Analysis
& the Drama of Global Politics.”

John W. Mohr, Robin Wagner-Pacifici,
Ronald Breiger and Petko Bogdanov.
Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research
on Literature, the Media, and the Arts.
Vol. 41(6):670-700.

See Research Gate and pages



Go to Index (top)  



Politics & Discourse:
Poverty Policies



The Discourses of Welfare and Welfare Reform:

The study of social welfare has undergone a shift over the last 20 years from a strongly realist to a decidedly constructionist orientation. The move is largely the result of the impact of feminist scholars such as Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon whose attention to the construction of gender categories called into question key analytic assumptions of earlier research agendas. The cultural turn that took place in this arena depended on the analysis of discourse. In this chapter I explain how the concept of discourse came into and subsequently transformed the sociological study of welfare institutions. I then highlight two key features of institutional discourse that I believe need to be taken into account in future research — that it is: (1) organized within semiotic systems, and (2) constructed through mutually constitutive (dually ordered) institutional structures...<continue>


John W. Mohr. 2004.The Discourses of Welfare and Welfare Reform.” Pp. 346-363 in the The Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Culture, edited by Mark Jacobs and Nancy Hanrahan.  Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell.

See Research Gate and pages
Color version of figure 2>


Locating the Origins of America's Two-Channel Welfare State
(with Krista Paulsen):

Feminist scholars have argued that there are "two channels" in the American welfare state—one directed toward the needs of men, another directed towards women. Recent debates ask whether the differences that have been identified in contemporary practices began during the Progressive Era. We examine the way that relief organizations operating in New York City between 1888 and 1917 classified men and women. We find evidence which supports the contention that there were clearly gendered differences in social welfare practices before and during the Progressive Era, that these differences had a significant impact on the way that men and women were treated, and that the differences in treatment were linked to men and women's perceived services to society.

John W. Mohr and Krista Paulsen.
Locating the Origins of America's
Two-Channel Welfare State:
Evidence from New York City's
Relief Organizations, 1888-1917
Unpublished manuscript.

The Classificatory Logics of State Welfare Systems

In the process of conferring the rights of citizenship, modern nation states constitute their citizens as subjects within a variety of discursive registers. The English sociologist T.H. Marshall was one of the first commentators to point out that this process included the construction of citizens as the bearers of social rights...In practice, however, social rights do not exist apart from the bureaucracies which implement them. Thus...individuals are compelled to enter into "bureaucratic encounters" wherein they are subjected to the classificatory logics of whichever agencies are charged with the task of evaluating and processing their claims (Hasenfeld, Rafferty, and Zald, 1987). In this encounter, an interpretation is invoked and imposed, a set of meanings are brought to bear, and the individual petitioner is located within a system of discourse. ...Simply put, to claim the rights of citizenship is—in this regard—to enter into a relationship wherein one's subjectivity is specified according to a pre-existing menu of identities possessing the right to make certain types of claims, having diagnosable needs and for whom recognizable solutions embodied within established organizational repertoires of action are deemed to be appropriate.

John W. Mohr. 1998.
The Classificatory Logics of State Welfare Systems:
Towards a Formal Analysis
Pages 207-38 in Public Rights, Public Rules:
Constituting Citizens in the World Polity and National Policy
Connie McNeely (ed.). NY: Garland Publishing, Inc

The Impact of State Intervention in the Nonprofit Sector
(with Francesca Guerra-Pearson):

Wide-ranging policy initiatives are currently being crafted on the faith that non-profit organizations (NPOs) have been "crowded out" of the field of social welfare by the expansion of federal programs and that a shrinking of federal commitments will usher in a resurgence of voluntary activism and a veritable renaissance of NPOs in the social welfare sector. Other research (Sosin, 1986) has shown that cutbacks during the Reagan administration did not lead to the anticipated expansion of the nonprofit sector. The research presented here suggests why this was the case. Evidence from the New Deal era indicates that NPOs were not "crowded out" by federal intervention and that public/private sector relations are not governed by the logic of a zero-sum game. On the contrary, this research suggests that NPOs do best when federal programs have prospered. It is, as Lester Salamon suggests, as partners in social service that NPOs are most likely to flourish.

Go to Index (top)

Winner of the ARNOVA
(Association for Research on Nonprofit
Organizations and Voluntary Action)
Award for Outstanding Article, 1997

The Impact of State Intervention in the Nonprofit Sector:
The Case of the New Deal

John W. Mohr and Francesca Guerra-Pearson. 1996.

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
Vol. 25, no. 4., p. 525-539.



Science Studies:



This book addresses the interconnections and tensions between technological development, the social benefits and risks of new technology, and the changing political economy of a global world system as they apply to the emerging field of nanotechnologies. The basic premise, developed throughout the volume, is that nanotechnologies have an undertheorized and often invisible social life that begins with their constructed origins and propels them around the globe, across multiple localities, institutions and collaborations, through diverse industries, research labs, and government agencies and into the public sphere. The volume situates nano innovation and development as a modernist science and technology project in a tense and unstable relationship with a fractured, postmodern social world. The book is unique in incorporating and integrating studies of innovation systems along with a focus on the risks and consequences of a globally significant set of emerging technologies. It does this by examining the social and political conditions of their creation, production, emergence, and reception.


The Social Life of Nanotechnology.
Barbara Herr Harthorn and John W. Mohr.
2012. (editors).

Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society.



On the one hand then, we look at how nanotechnologies (like all organized social endeavors) are socially constructed or, as Latour (2005) would say, assembled from a range of different pre-existing technologies, scientific theories, professional communities, streams of resources and intellectual mandates. The assemblers are the agents of numerous communities and interests who have pushed and shoved to make this into a recognizable arena of action. Nanotechnologies emerged from a range of different post-Cold-War scientific projects that were drawn together through collaborations that followed on a series of technical and cultural breakthroughs. Technological developments involved the convergence of actions and interventions at the molecular or Nano scale (measured in billionths of a meter). Cultural breakthroughs arrived via scientific visions of possible futures, collective constructions of what counts as “valued research” and real world assemblages of shared identities built from social ties, interdisciplinary scientific collaborations and (as Mody shows in this volume) time spent together at conferences. This burgeoning innovation system has taken form in tandem with the rise of the internet, the rapid growth of modern political economic globalization and the increased digitalization of media and meaning. In ways that we describe in the volume, this means that perhaps more than any other contemporary scientific field, nanotechnologies have been assembled through a kind of scientific and technological bricolage, an amalgamation of conjoint ideas and technologies, organized around no singular disciplinary community or intellectual site but rather by the scale at which the work is conducted

Go to Index (top)

“Introduction to the Social Life of Nanotechnology.”
Barbara Herr Harthorn and John W. Mohr.

Pp. 1-18 in
The Social Life of Nanotechnology
Barbara Herr Harthorn and John W. Mohr (editors).
Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society.



Text Mining & Content Analysis:



“Graphing the Grammar of Motives in U.S. National Security Strategies:
Cultural Interpretation, Automated Text Analysis
& the Drama of Global Politics.”

John W. Mohr, Robin Wagner-Pacifici, Ronald Breiger and Petko Bogdanov.
Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Literature, the Media, and the Arts,
Vol. 41(6):670-700.

See Research Gate and pages




Topic Models: What they are and why they matter”
(with Petko Bogdanov)

We provide a brief, non-technical introduction to the text mining methodology known as topic modeling. We summarize the theory and background of the method and discuss just what kinds of things are found by topic models. Using a text corpus comprised of the eight articles from the special issue of Poetics on the subject of topic models, we run a topic model on these papers both as a way to introduce the methodology and also to help summarize some of the ways in which social and cultural scientists are using topic models. We review some of the critiques and debates over the use of the method and finally, we link these developments back to some of the original innovations in the field of content analysis that were pioneered by Harold D. Lasswell and colleagues during and just after World War II.

Topic Models: What they are and why they matter”
(2013) John W. Mohr and Petko Bogdanov.
Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Literature, the Media, and the Arts
Vol. 41(6):545-569

topics and articles


(2013) Special Issue of Poetics (Vol. 41, no. 6) on
“Topic Models and the Cultural Sciences.”
John W. Mohr and Petko Bogdanov (editors).

table of contents <download>

“Collection and Analysis of Relational Data from Digital Archives.”
(with Petko Bogdanov

For studies of organizations and industries, there are multiple types of relational data that can usefully be extracted from digital archives. By digital archives we include both information collected and stored as part of the internal file production process of modern organizations (such as company email archives, internal document flows or annual reports) as well as the broader digital streams of information characterizing the environments that contemporary organizations (and humans) live in (including here everything from the proliferation of digitized versions of all types of media-feeds, professional literature sources, knowledge bases and journal systems, and the broader “webification” of modern social life encompassing everything from the collective production of socio-technical knowledge systems (such as Wikpedia) to the ever expanding world of complex social networks in which relational actions such as “tweets,” “likes” and “friendings” make up the complex digitally networked social life that both complements and is increasingly dually intertwined with traditional social (non-digital) life.

“Collection and Analysis of Relational Data from Digital Archives.”
Forthcoming) John W. Mohr and Petko Bogdanov.
Encyclopedia of Social Networks and Mining.
Reda Alhajj and Jon Rokne (eds.) Springer
Go to Index (top)