Building upon prior work in the social sciences and philosophy, and more specifically in cultural and economic sociology, we examine the embeddedness of economic processes within modern culture. Over the course of much of the most recent century, social observers have articulated modernization processes that would come to fruition across a wide array of cultural processes, including artistic expression and cultural norms. We identify five distinct aspects of the modernization process, the cultural and institutional modalities most closely associated with them, and the economic systems that they are most likely to support. We then identify social and environmental problems most closely associated with each, and address questions of how possible it would be for the advent of a sustainable value system, sufficiently overarching in scope to balance the weight of the dominance of a late modern economic system that can at the same time maintain a diverse global culture. What would such a value system involve? More generally, what social beliefs and practices undergird the peaceful practice of ecological, economic and cultural balance, and what institutional practices would be necessary for such a system to succeed? In developing a metatheoretical framework for addressing these issues, we articulate five ideal-typical hermeneutic circles, or networks of meaning, situated relative to the trajectory of modernity, and look at the larger social and institutional processes with which they interact.
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