196 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION
developed and perpetuated through he ordinary alk and behavior of this pow
erful roup f people.
Talk. Anthropologists have long recognized that language is the essence of culture. Jurgen abermas (1987:124) has argued more recently hat anguage has "a certain transcendental tatus" with regard o social life. ore than any other work in sociology, abits opened the way to talk-based mpirical studies, to rec ognizing the central importance f communication to social life. n approaching individualism s a set of languages, t focuses readers' ttention on the empirical dimension of public culture, the shared meanings we can understand y studying
Everyday life nd the "unmarked." s Wayne Brekhus (1998) has argued, much sociology engages with culturally marked" ategories of social phenome na-things that have been constructed s standing ut in some way, as particu larly nusual or problematic. Habits engages the terms f ordinary ife, he cul tural atterns ithin which the unmarked undanities of everyday ife re expe rienced as meaningful. ts interrogation f these taken-for-granted atterns helps readers nderstand the power of the ordinary. Individualism nd the ties that ind. Habits' critique of individualism, nd its driving concern with the cultural obstacles to recognizing he ties that bind us together, s just as relevant today as it was in 1985. Twenty-plus years later, American society still has trouble with togetherness, nd the questions Habits asks are perhaps even more important ow. Do Americans have the cultural resources o effectively nvision, plan, and act as a collective? Are shared proj ects culturally ossible? Can Americans see themselves s responsible for ach other, as necessarily onnected to and dependent upon each other? Hegemonic
individualism akes recognizing hese onnections ifficult; t makes t ifficult
to think n terms f "we." The question, then, s where will the "we" come from? he authors f Habits suggest einvigorating eligious nd civic individualism. ut where will this rein vigoration come from? erhaps the angry nd belatedly organizing religious eft, with its brand new collective identity nd its mphasis on love and caretaking, will reinvigorate eligious ndividualism. don't see a similar move by the domi nant part of the secular political left o reinvigorate ivic individualism, lthough the Greens and other third arties are trying. t is worth considering, owever, the potential social role of the discipline of sociology. he discipline itself s soci ety's rimary nstitutionalized ource of alternatives o hegemonic individualism. Consider the introductory ociology classes taught n colleges and universities, and the fact that 27% of American adults have a college education (Stoops 2004). As writers, s well as teachers, ociologists ave the potential to commu nicate a sociological imagination, o offer erms or n alternative iscourse, nd to raise public consciousness about the mutual interdependence f individuals and the social systems hat bind them.