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PART ONE MODERNITY AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
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PART ONE
MODERNITY AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS


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Modernity and Social Movements

Ron Eyerman

In this essay I discuss the concept of modernity as it has been inherited from the classical thought of Weber, Simmel, and Michels and as it is interpreted in contemporary sociology. My concern is not to give a comprehensive account of the development of the concept of modernity in sociology but rather to focus on one area: social conflict and social movements. In the connection my prime concern is the effect of modernity on both the development and the sociological understanding of social movements. In other words, I am not concerned merely with the history of a concept but rather with the relationship between concepts of understanding and historical reality.

1. Modernity

As used in classical sociological theory, the concept of modernity has its roots in the attempt to come to grips with the meaning and significance of the social changes occurring in Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century, namely, the effects of industrialization, urbanization, and political democracy on essentially rural and autocratic societies. The term "modernity" was coined to capture these changes in progress by contrasting the "modern" with the "traditional." The theme, if not the concept, of modernity pervades sociology and the work of its founding fathers, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim. In their work modernity was meant to be more than a heuristic concept. It carried connotations of a new experience of the world. Modernity referred to a world constructed anew through the active and conscious intervention of actors and the new sense of self that such active intervention and responsibility entailed. In modern society the world is experienced as a human construction, an


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experience that gives rise both to an exhilarating sense of freedom and possibility and to a basic anxiety about the openness of the future.

This is how modernity was understood in classical sociology. One theme that stands out in this account of social change and its effect on human experience is the development of a new sense of self, of subjectivity and individuality. This idea distinguishes the modern individual from the traditional one. The sociological account of this difference is based on changes in the understanding of the relationship between man and the supernatural, changes in property relations, and the demographic changes that accompanied industrialization. In this chapter I focus on the latter changes. Industrialization involved more than the development of a new means of producing the necessities of life; it involved the centralization and coordination of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods. It drew masses of laboring individuals from rural communities and farm labor to centralized urban workplaces. This uprooting of relatively stable populations was interpreted both positively and negatively—as liberating, alienating, or both—by sociologists and the people whose experience the sociologists sought to capture.

Liberation and alienation, however they were interpreted and experienced, involved both a physical and a mental break with the rural, family-based community. They meant that the traditional social networks that formed the basis of social identity no longer had direct control over the migrating individual. Alienation from the traditional community and its forms of identity and control meant that the alienated individual was open to new influences. The social changes associated with modernity thus made possible the formation of new social networks and political identities, for example, the rise of "voluntary associations" (which stood in contrast to those traditional associations into which one was born and that one took largely for granted). Such voluntary associations, which provided the basis for new social and political identities for the recently uprooted individual, could be work-related, such as trade unions, or neighborhood-based, such as community and religious groups. Often these voluntary organizations overlapped and competed for the attention of individuals in their attempt to refocus political and social orientations.

The break with tradition and the rural community meant the break with established identity-giving authority. The new individuals, freed from the traditional collective, were free to reorient themselves and to reconstruct their world: to "make history," as Marx put it, "but not under conditions of [their] own choosing." The social changes associated with modernity, industrialization, and especially urbanization were neither chosen nor directed by the individuals involved in these demographic changes. They were its victims, not its instigators. Once in motion, however, these shifts opened new possibilities. The social movement that


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began "behind the backs" of actors could be transformed into a positive social force, into a social-political movement for Marx or into new forms of social solidarity for Durkheim.

Marx concerned himself with the new forms of political identity created by modernity and the possibility of forming a collective will, but Weber and his associates, such as Simmel and Michels, turned their attention to the effects of modernity on the individual and the new forms of organization that this entailed. For Weber and Simmel modern society is constituted of as well as by individuals; it is a product of their interactions rather than a traditional form of social organization. Thus modernity entails new possibilities for the expression of human subjectivity in forms of social interaction that are not entirely a product of tradition. Of course Weber and Michels also studied the new forms through which human action could be institutionalized and guided by systems of rules that could be just as effective as traditional forms in constraining human freedom even though they were not traditional in the sense of being based on longstanding cultural patterns. Weber's studies of bureaucracy, together with his ambiguous interpretation of its "rationality," and Michels's study of political parties provide examples of modern forms that constrain individual freedom of expression and action. Both, however, interpreted modernity as a break with the traditional bonds of rural society that entailed the possibility of a new freedom of action and expression for the individual and thus a new relationship between the individual and the collective.

This new sense of freedom associated with modernity included an awareness and an experience of time. For the modern individual time involves process and duration; it also involves a sense of dynamic change that turns attention to the future rather than to the past. The modern individual is aware of himself or herself not only as an individual, that is, as a creator of self and society, but also as an individual with a future. This experience, together with its ideological expression in sociological theories and political tracts, varies according to social class.

This new sense of time and future orientation applies as much to the arts as to social and political relations. In fact, the concept of modernity used in social theory and the concept of modernism used to describe movements in the arts and literature have a common basis. Both focus on the new sense of individuality, future orientation, and creative possibility and identify these attributes with both the individual and collective movements. Like the modernist painter or writer, social theorist of modernity—I think primarily of Simmel in this connection—attempted to capture the dynamism of the modern experience in the very form of their writing. Simmel's vivid descriptions of the city and the new-found relationship between the individual and the group in modern society


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remind one of the attempts by expressionist painters and by authors such as Joyce to capture the dynamism of the modern experience in forms that match its content.

This attempt to match modern content with modern form permeates the classical sociological interpretation of modernity. Modern sociology, like modern society itself, faces the problem of organizing the dynamism of modernity in efficient ways. The modern concept of efficiency means getting the most out of energy expended and harnessing forces already in motion. Again, one can point to Weber's study of bureaucracy as an example of an attempt to come to grips with how best to organize modernity. Marx's and Durkheim's studies of the division of labor can be understood in the same way.

This problem of organizing the forces of modernity is directly political in its interest and its implications. This is true not only for the conflict that still defines modern political theory—the conflict between individual freedom and collective responsibility or, as, expressed in the notion of modernity itself, between freedom and alienation—but also in the reorganization of social and individual identity that the processes of modernity make necessary. Cut loose from the relatively secure and stable networks of the rural community, the modern individual is forced to reconstitute a sense of self that includes new ways of acting politically and defining the political community. How and in which direction this redefinition of the political community occurs is a matter of great theoretical and practical concern. The Marxist theorists Luxemburg and Lenin had competing ideas about the role of organization in harnessing the energies of modernity and developing the political consciousness of the modern individual. In their well-known debate about the nature of political organization in relation to the spontaneity of mass movements and the role of the party and the professional politician in the development of political consciousness, these two Marxists differed in their interpretation of the type of organization and the amount of guidance necessary to attain the goal they held in common: the creation of a modern society based on a new balance between the individual and the collective. Both took for granted that modern politics was a matter of harnessing newly freed energies and directing mass movements, but they disagreed about what form the harnessing and directing was to take. Lenin stressed the role of a tightly knit organization and a politically conscious intellectual leadership, whereas Luxemburg stressed the necessity of participation in collective struggles. She held that a mass movement was itself a form of political socialization in which individuals gain a new sense of self and a new awareness of the political nature of modern society.

More to the center of the modern political theory, Weber was concerned


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about how the dynamic forces of modernity would form themselves politically. That modern politics would be class was accepted by Weber as much as it was by the Marxists. In political terms modernity meant class conflict and interests defined through class-related political parties. Weber also concerned himself with the significance of social movements in modern politics and the role of leadership and organization in these movements. More like Hegel than Marx, Weber viewed mass movements with trepidation rather than expectation. It was politically important to him (as well as to Durkheim) that the development of "the masses" be a transitory and temporary phenomenon and that the reconstitution of individual and collective political identity take place as quickly as possible. Without this reconstitution he feared that modern democracy might not survive. Thus political parties and other voluntary organizations were important in mediating between the individual and the collective and in transcending the formation of mass movements. Weber thought that mass movements were dangerous because the individual who participated in them lost that independence of thought and action that constituted the great positive potential of modernity, becoming instead subject to irrational impulses and charismatic leaders. This could easily lead to a restoration of premodern forms of authority and organization.

Although Weber saw mass movements as necessary to the transition from traditional to modern society, he believed that these movements were a stage to be transcended as quickly as possible. Transcendence took the form of reconstituting the relationship between the individual and the collective in modern organizations and institutions. Modern organizations were those that could balance the newly won freedom of the individual with a sense of collective responsibility. Mediating voluntary organizations, such as political parties, that could reconstitute individual political identity in progressive forms were the means to this end. The modern nation-state in which these political parties were organized formed the framework and the object of this new, modern political identity. The state was another term for the reorganization of political life. It constituted a new balance between individual freedom and collective responsibility and was the ultimate object of individual and collective political identity. Recognizing oneself as a member of a nation and having a sense of nation identity was the highest form of political identity for Weber and thus an important aspect of modern political socialization. The question of how to reconstitute the political identity of the modern individual into a national identity was central to Weber's sociological and political theory.

The same can be said for Michels. Although his classic Political Parties (1959) claims to be an empirical study of the German Social Democratic


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party (SPD), it is really a treatise in modern political theory. The central issue is the reorganization of modern political identity and the formation of political interests in modern society. Michels begins with the claim that modern politics demands organization and that organization, although necessary, eventually undermines its democratic ideals. This is his famous "iron law of oligarchy." One can immediately see, however, that it is mass movements and the alienation of the modern individual that make this reorganization necessary. In other words, Michels takes Weber's discussion of the meaning of modernity as the starting point of his analysis: the newly freed individual and the new masses require organization. Thus, for Weber and Michels "democracy" essentially means mass rule. The dangers inherent in mass rule have already been mentioned; these dangers also make the reorganization of the masses necessary. Michels's point is that organization can never be democratic because it is the antithesis of the mass movement and mass rule.

Before turning to the issue of social movements and their relationship to modernity and modern politics, one further theme connected to modernity needs to be mentioned: social mobility. If modernity means the physical mobility of masses of individuals, it also connotes the possibility of upward social mobility. In contrast to tradition, which is usually characterized as having a fixed and static social structure, modernity, at least at the outset, is characterized as being more fluid and open. Mass demographic movement implies fluidity and the possibility of moving up as well as out; at least this is how it is usually portrayed. Much sociological analysis has gone into investigating this claim associated with modernity. It is not my intention to review this literature but merely to point out that social mobility is part of the ethos of modernity, both for sociologist and for everyday actors.

This aspect of modernity also has direct political implications, both in its social-science formulations and in its political theory and practice. For many contemporary Marxists social mobility is a form of false consciousness and thus a hindrance to the formation of a collective political will. For liberal theorists social mobility, both individual and collective, is a central assumption and aim of politics and political theory. Liberals connect mobility with individual freedom, thus making it a cornerstone of the promise of modernity and their interpretation of it. For conservatives social mobility and modernity are equally threatening and are identified with one another as a threat to freedom, which is associated with the stability that hierarchy is said to provide.

To summarize, modernity refers to the constitution of subjectivity, the social construction of the modern self, and the political and cultural expressions of these phenomena at both the individual and the collective level.


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2. Social Movements

Social movements are central to modernity. They are central both because modernity connotes movement and because modernity involves new political alliances and allegiances in which mass movements play a significant role. But social movements are more than the spontaneous gathering of masses of individuals. They are a distinct form of collective behavior. They are purposive and relatively structured forms of collective behavior. Crowds, even traffic jams, are made up of masses of individuals, but they are not modern movements. Unlike crowds, social movements are composed of groups of individuals gathered with the common purpose of expressing subjectively felt discontent in a public way and changing the perceived social and political bases of that discontent. What makes social movements modern is not their collective but their distinctly political character.

The idea of legitimacy is central to the modern understanding of politics. Political action requires minimally "that an actor or actors make some explicit claim that the means of action can be recognized as legitimate and the ends of action become binding for the wider community" (Offe 1985, 826–27, italics in original).[1] Thus it is possible to make a distinction between sociocultural and sociopolitical movements. Sociocultural movements, for example, religious sects or countercultures, make use of legitimate and accepted forms of collective action—public demonstrations, recruitment, bloc voting, and so on—in their attempts to increase their numbers and secure the right to practice their beliefs. Yet they usually do not intend by these actions to make these beliefs or practices binding on the entire political community. When they do, as in the case of many contemporary Islamic movements, they are no longer sects or sociocultural movements but full-fledged sociopolitical movements.

So far I have distinguished sociopolitical movements from sociocultural movements and other, more spontaneous, forms of collective behavior. To differentiate sociopolitical movements from ad hoc protest groups, I further require that sociopolitical movements have a more or less generally accepted set of shared beliefs. Such a set of beliefs provides for a common understanding and definition of a conflict situation and allows continuity from one specific situation to the next. Sociopolitical movements must also possess some form of organization and means of communication to give them stability and continuity.

Sociopolitical movements, then, are more than masses of people gathered in protest; they require forms of organization and communication


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that allow continuity over time and space. The forms these movements take differ in modern societies depending on the specific political culture, but the existence of such organizations and networks of communication is a characteristic of modernity and modern politics. Sociopolitical movements, in other words, are a defining characteristic of modern politics and modern society.[2]

In pointing out that modern social movements require a degree of organization and networks of communication in order to ensure their continuity over time, it is necessary to distinguish sociopolitical movements from more highly structured organs such as political parties, which are themselves characteristic of modernity and modern politics. Although they are more structured than crowds and mass mobilizations, sociopolitical movements are less structured than political parties. They expand and contract, continually taking in and losing participants. They are more flexible in organization and tolerant in beliefs than political parties because their purpose is less a practical and instrumental one than an expressive one. However, the line between parties and movements cannot be drawn too firmly. Sociopolitical movements may produce their own political parties or work with and within other parties as tactics for achieving some of their ends. Not all who participate in the movement need join or even accept the idea of a more formal political party as part of the movement itself. For many participants, in most cases for even the majority, the movement may be only a vaguely defined or experienced set of beliefs and emotions through which one may discover and express dissatisfaction without necessarily feeling loyalty to any organization or political program.

To maintain a sense of continuity, sociopolitical movements require both the fluidity of ideas and emotions, as expressed in public demonstrations, pamphlets, and newsletters, and the stability provided by more formal organization and leadership. The leadership stands for and speaks for the movements at times when no mass public is visible, something that seems necessary and yet that creates problems of its own.

When defined as more-or-less organized forms of collective action aimed at social change, social movements are a distinctly modern phenomenon. They depend on and express our modern political culture, which permits and recognizes mass discontent as part of the repertoire of political action and which is based on the awareness that fundamental change is indeed possible. Modernity and modern politics rest on the


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assumption that society and policy are made by people, not gods or kings. The absence of such awareness, that is, the lack of a political content to mass discontent, distinguishes modern social movements from more traditional forms of popular discontent and rebellion.[3]

It is common today to distinguish "old" social movements from "new" ones (Melucci 1980, 1981). Such a distinction rests on two sets of criteria. The first, associated with Alain Touraine, builds on the theory of the historical transition from an old industrial society to a new postindustrial society (Touraine 1981). From this point of view the labor movement is an old social movement because it expresses the conflicts of industrial society and industrialization, that is, the conflicts between labor and capital. New social movements, such as the women's movement, express conflicts representative of the new postindustrial society. A second set of criteria differentiating between new and old social movements stems from the issues they raise and the locus of the changes they wish to bring about. In this case the labor movement not only reflects the old struggle between labor and capital but also is rooted in and concerned with the labor process itself in its demands for change and its vision of the future. New social movements, however, express concerns that according to established ways of thinking are outside the labor process. These concerns are primarily noneconomic issues, such as gender relations and the meaning of war and peace. The new social movements express concerns that are more cultural than economic. They aim at changing norms and values rather than productive and distributive relations.

These distinctions between old and new social movements provide a convenient way of categorizing various contemporary political conflicts and social movements. For one thing, classes and related class interests, which provided the prime source of collective identity and motivation for collective action in the past (at least in Europe), seem less a factor today, at least for explaining social movements. Contemporary social movements seem motivated by concerns other than those directly associated with income and economic security. In addition, rather than focusing on the labor process the realm of concern has shifted to what has been called the "life-world," which involves issues of personal identity, personal life, neighborhood, sexuality, and life-style.[4] Finally, the types of demands put forward by the new social movements lie, to some extent, outside the realm of traditional compromise politics, whether that be labor-market politics or representative democracy as it currently exists. Unlike working-class movements, which can offer and withdraw


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their labor power in exchange for concessions from capital, the new social movements have little to offer in exchange. Their demands tend to be made in nonnegotiable terms and are usually expressed negatively: antiwar, antinuclear, and so on. Whether this approach represents tactics or is an early stage of movement development remains to be seen. The literature on social movements includes a long-standing discussion concerning the strategies and tactics of social movements (see Jenkins 1981). In any case the distinction between old and new social movements seems worthwhile to make from an analytical point of view. From the actor's point of view its validity seems beyond question.[5]

3. Modernity and Social Movements

Thus far I have discussed the sociological understanding of modernity and modern social movements. In this section my task is to take up the question of how modernity itself has affected the development of modern social movements. In the preceding section I drew an analytical distinction between old and new social movements. My task here is to connect this discussion with the changes in economic and social structure that may be referred to as "postmodern." I argue that what I call "new" social movements are the expression of postmodernity.

Three societal dynamics underlie the development of postmodernity: the expansion of the state, the explosion of the knowledge industry, and the development of the new mass media. These three dynamics of social change have both influenced social movements and been influenced by them. The old social movements were at once the product of modernity and an essential element in its dynamism. The working class movement, for example, was the product of industrialization and urbanization, but modern democracy was a force in its development in specific directions. Similarly, new social movements are both the product of modernity and a reaction to it. It is important, however, to distinguish the postmodern critique of modernity from the premodern critique. The premodern, or Romantic, critique of modernity focused on modernization as such and based itself on an idyllic past, usually with right-wing political overtones. In contrast, the postmodern critique of modernity, although sharing some of the features of Romanticism—which are especially evident in the environment movement—represents a "progressive" transcendence of modernity rather than its outright rejection.

At this point I would like to discuss three of the changes underlying the postmodern condition. First, since the end of World War II Western


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societies have undergone an exceptional transformation in economic and social structure. To a great extent the root of this transformation lies in the expansion and intervention of the state into areas that previously were the domain of civil society, including private economic activity regulated by a market and social activity, such as child-care, regulated by tradition. This shifting ground between state and civil society, between public and private areas of action and responsibility, is part of the field of ambiguity and potential conflict from which new social movements emerge. State expansion and intervention have politicized private domains and provoked a reaction from both the political left and the political right.

Second, in the postwar period Western societies have also experienced a shift toward knowledge-based, capital-intensive production, which requires more highly educated workers. The state-supported transformation of the employment structure has been underpinned by a revolution in education in which the links between education and production have become more pronounced and rationalized through various forms of manpower planning. What I call the new social movements are to a great extent peopled by the highly educated and the content of their critique of modern society builds on both their educational experience and their occupational expectations.[6]

A related development important to the understanding of the new social movements is the expanded employment opportunities for women—especially married women—made possible by the knowledge industry and the general expansion of the public sector. The expansion of service, administrative, and care-giving occupations, which coincided with the growth of the state and its intervention into what previously were private services, has opened up many new paid employment opportunities for women. New opportunities for work and education helped establish the condition in which the social values and norms that defined a proper "woman's place" could be challenged. Here the interplay between the beliefs of a sociopolitical movement (the women's movement) and a shifting economic and social structure of opportunity becomes clear. Structural possibilities and social conflicts grew together, opening fields of contention from which sociopolitical movements would emerge.

Third, the changes in representative democracy that occurred as part


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of modernity have laid the grounds for postmodernity. During the course of their development the old social movements became participatory movements. Whatever their original intentions or ideologies, they came more and more to be concerned with getting a piece of the modern pie and participating in modern politics as equal partners with capital and other powerful political and economic actors.[7] These movements—and here I think primarily of the labor movements of Western Europe—developed into organizations that became part of the institutionalized power and decision-making structures of modern society. Such movements developed into centralized organizations and associated with political parties, slowly gaining power and influence but losing the dynamism and the mass engagement with which they began. Perhaps this development was both necessary and successful, for no one can deny the actual power labor movements enjoy today in Western Europe. Except for ceremonial occasions, however, hardly anyone would deny that the "movement" aspect has disappeared.[8] Political power and participation were bought at the price of accepting a certain definition of modern politics, that of administration and redistribution through the centralized state, and of the loss of a social movement. In the dialectic between movement and organization, the movement got lost. This development is also important in understanding new social movements and their rejection of modernity. For the new movements modernity is associated with a particular type of politics. The new social movements are expressions of the rejection of the politics of administration and its representatives in both labor and capital. In this sense they are postmodern because they reject the identities of class and the ideology of political modernism.

With this rather cursory discussion of the social and economic background to postmodernity I now turn to the effects of modernity on the new social movements. I discuss three dynamics in this connection: state intervention, the knowledge industry, and the mass media.

3.1. State Intervention

I have mentioned some of the ways that state intervention in social and economic spheres has influenced the development of social movements


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in recent times. State expansion and intervention into labor market planning, education, family life, and child-rearing, both passively through taxation and other forms of economic redistribution and actively through the reorganization of services traditionally performed privately, have had the effect of politicizing new spheres of social life. This politicization has generated reactions on both the political left and the political right and has provided issues for activists in new social movements. Although the creation of the nation-state and the resulting political identity was central to what classical social theory meant by modernity, postmodernity is at once more universalistic (concerned with humanity and nature, women's liberation, and world peace) and more parochial (concerned with local control and self-reliance). And in contrast with modernist political movements, which had a class character and drew political identity from material concerns, such as labor and capital, postmodernist movements are more idealistic and diffuse in their participants and interests.

In addition to its expanded role as employer and redistributor of funds, the state has become the arena as well as the focus of political action. All these factors have influenced the development of social movements in the recent past, and go a long way in explaining their emergence, the types of issues raised, and the particular activists who populate them. But there is another side to state intervention: the state as activist and political agent.

I can perhaps best show what I mean with examples from my own research concerning the development of European environmentalist movements.[9] The Swedish state has played a very active role in defining environmental issues and deciding environmental policy since the early 1970s. Sweden was one of the first countries to create a governmental agency concerned with environmental protection, and this early activism on the part of the state, an activism in favor of environmental protection, has played a significant role in the way the Swedish environmentalist movement has developed. For one thing, this positive attitude toward regulation and control took many issues and potential mobilizing forces away from the environmentalist movement. For another, state intervention has had the effect of turning environmental protection into series of legal and technical issues. As a result the environmentalist movement has been forced to accept the state's definition of the situation and to shape its reaction along lines and according to rules it has had no part in framing. Thus the movement developed more as a movement of experts who could


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participate in environmental debates by virtue of being conversant in the legal and technical language of the field and who were recruited as a counterweight to government and industry experts. The movement became more and more professionalized, which shaped the type of issues taken up, the type of activist attracted to the movement, and the type of organization used. Professionalization created a potential rift between a knowledgeable leadership and a less knowledgeable, and thus less powerful, rank and file. Furthermore, the government has been able to recruit many of the movement-produced experts into its own administration of the environment. Other contemporary social movements have had analogous experiences. The women's movement, for example, has to an almost equal extent been "legalized" and administered through state definition and intervention into the "women's problem."

Although too much can be made of this trend—as in the claims either that social movements are functional to societal adaptation or, more cynically, that they are forms of "artificial negativity" that help "one-dimensional" societies rationalize their forms of domination—new social movements share with old ones a tendency toward institutionalization and, from another point of view, incorporation. However, as resource mobilization theorists have shown, the threat of incorporation, that is, "selling out" to the establishment, is often a stimulus that gives life to social movements. The threat of incorporation is often met with protest and the formation of new, rebellious groups within the movement. This internal conflict is common to all social movements, both old and new. What is significantly different, however, is the forms through which this incorporation can take place. Old social movements in the West fought against a hostile state and a well-entrenched ruling elite and for the most part sought recognition as legitimate combatants in the struggle for political and economic rights, as struggle carried out in the name of democracy. They could be called modernizers insofar as democracy is measured by inclusion and participation on an equal basis with other combatants. New social movements, however, have emerged from within this structure of modernity and have done so partly as a reaction against it. For the old social movements the prime areas of conflict and identity as well as the means of incorporation were work and the state. Participation in the established institutions on an equal basis with other powers is not the goal of the new social movments, nor is the state the means to attaining their goals. They cannot be called modernizers. The new social movements fear having their ideas and identities included and redefined in the ideologies and the platforms of the older political parties and thus incorporated into the bureaucratic world of state regulation and control. What was the prime goal of the old social movements is anathema to the new.


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3.2. The Knowledge Industry

The expansion of education and the closer links between the production of knowledge and the practical interests of the state and private economic sectors in increased productivity and profits have provided much fuel for contemporary conflict and the emergence of new social movements. Many participants in the new social movements are the products of this transformation, at once the beneficiaries of higher education and detractors of its shifting aims. The argument that higher education is manipulated by technocratic interests, which grew out of the student movements of the 1960s, has been extended into new areas by recent sociopolitical movements. Activists in the environmentalist movement use this critique of the relationship between education, science, and state-corporate interests (and the view of nature that underlies it) as a platform from which to criticize Western society in general. Many activists in the peace movement share this general criticism. They describe science, Knowledge, and technology as arms of common state and corporate interests and identify the military-industrial complex as central to the modern mode of production. Thus, the knowledge industry and the links between education, knowledge, and corporate and state interests provide a common focus for new social movements and in this way have influenced their development. At the same time, because many activists in these movements are highly educated professionals employed in the very institutions they criticize, the movements have influenced the production of knowledge.

To take another example from my ongoing research, the environmentalist movement in Europe has developed in particular ways in part because of the interaction between professional scientists—both as activists and as the representatives of government or private interests—and the movement itself. The environmentalist movement has helped shape the course and content of knowledge production in part because of this interaction. Many scientists, and not just ecologists and biologists, have been influenced in the type of research they do and the broader theoretical frameworks they apply by their own or their colleagues' participation or interest in environmentalist organizations. New scientific frameworks have been developed or greatly modified in conjuction with the rise of environmentalism—the science of ecology is but one obvious example— and research programs have been instituted and funded for the same reasons.

The same may be said about the more applied areas of technological development. The concept and development of "alternative technology" arose within the environmentalist critique of modern production and consumption practices. Both the development of new scientific frameworks and the formulation of alternative technologies have focused


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on the modernist orientations of the knowledge industry. This modernism is identified in the productivist orientations that are thought to underpin contemporary knowledge production, which view nature as an object of human intervention and redirection. Because of the universalistic, rational-scientific orientation of much of modern environmentalism, which stems from the background of its activists and the political-cultural context in which it has developed, the environmentalist movement in Europe has contributed to the postmodern critique of modernity. This has the somewhat paradoxical effect of opening rational alternatives to modernity to modern rationality. Some of these alternatives (not all of course) contain the seeds of a new form of knowledge production, based on a new cosmological orientation and a new view of the relationship between humanity and nature (see Cramer, Eyerman, and Jamison 1987).

3.3. Mass Media

Like the state and the knowledge industry, the new mass media have helped "create" the new social movements. Coverage in the mass media and the instant attention gained through modern communications technologies have helped build these movements into significant social and political forces and have influenced their internal strategies, organization, and leadership. As Todd Gitlin has documented in his brilliant account of the influence of the mass media on the development of the student movement in the United States, the media in many senses became the movement (Gitlin 1980). New social movements are shaped by the mass media in several ways. Activists are conscious of media attention. They are also aware of their own importance in making and shaping "events" and in catching the public eye. To be noticed by the media is to gain legitimacy and significance and the ability to influence policy as well as the public at large. Modern movements must learn to use the media; otherwise the media will use and abuse them.

Modern politics is played out before the public. The mass media are the producers as well as important interpreters of this drama. The mass media, either because of their form or because of the values they embody, are attracted to the spectacular and the flamboyant. This has the effect of making the media event and the colorful movement leader a significant factor in the development of modern social movements. Would such an organization as Greenpeace, one of the fastest-growing organizations in the environmentalist movement, be possible without the mass media and modern techniques of communication and administration? I think not.

Other movement organizations are also influenced by the modern media. Gitlin demonstrates that the American student organization Students


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for a Democratic Society (SDS), a rather small group of well-brought-up students, was given celebrity status through media attention, which transformed not only the organization and its leadership, giving precedence to the colorful and the violent, but also its aims and its ideology, giving precedence to "radical" ideas and positions even though such views had previously only had marginal status within the movement. Philip Lowe and David Morrison show how the media and media attention have significantly affected the tactics and the aims of British environmentalist organizations (Lowe and Morrison 1984). Unlike the SDS, environmentalist groups have for the most part received favorable coverage in the media, especially as long as environmental issues remain free from partisan politics. This explains why environmental activists have been at pains to steer free of political parties. Lowe and Morrison go so far as to suggest that modern environmentalism, as opposed to the earlier conservation movement, would never have achieved its influence without its creative use of the media.

No modern movement can hope to gain influence without taking into account the centralized state and its form of discourse and organization, and no modern movement can afford to ignore the mass media. And just as taking the state into account entails paying the price of becoming organized and centralized, media attention has its own price. In this way modern social movements are shaped by various key aspects of modernity at the same time that they play a significant role in the development of modernity.

4. Conclusion

I have attempted to show how the development of modernity has created the grounds for the emergence of modern social movements and how, in turn, these social movements have been influenced by modernity. I have also tried to show how social movements are a central part of what we mean by modernity and how they have influenced our understanding of modernity.

References

Barnes, S., and M. Kaase, eds. 1979. Political action: Mass participation in five Western democracies . London: Sage.

Cramer, J., R. Eyerman, and A. Jamison. 1987. The knowledge interests of the environmental movement and the potential for influencing the development of science. In Sociology of the sciences yearbook, 1987 , ed. S. Blume, J. Bunders, L. Leydesdorff, and R. Whitley, 89–115. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Reidel.

Etzioni, A. 1968. The active society . New York: Free Press.


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Eyerman, R. 1981. False consciousness and ideology in Marxist theory . Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell and Humanities Press.

Eyerman, R., and A. Jamison. 1991. Social movements: A cognitive approach . Oxford: Polity Press.

Gitlin T. 1980. The whole world is watching: Mass media in the making and the unmaking of the new left . Berkeley: University of California Press.

Habermas, J. 1981. Theorie des Kommunikativen Handelns . Vol. 2. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Hobsbawm, E. 1959. Primitive rebels . Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Jenkins, J. Craig. 1981. Sociopolitical movements. In Handbook of political behavior, 4:81–153. New York and London: Plenum Press.

Carp, Walter. 1979. The working class in welfare capitalism . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Lowe, P., Morrison. 1984. Bad news or good news: Environmental politics and the media. The Sociological Review 32:75–90.

Melucci, A. 1980. The new social movements: A theoretical approach. Part 2. Social Science Information 19:199–226.

Melucci, A. 1981. Ten hypotheses for the analysis of new movements. In Contemporary Italian Sociology, ed. D. Pinto, 173–94. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Merton, R. 1949. Social theory and social structure . New York: Free Press.

Michels, R. 1959 Political parties . New York: Dover.

Offe, C. 1985. New social movements: Changing the boundaries of institutional politics. Social Research 52:817–68.

Peterson, A. 1984. The sex-gender dimension in Swedish politics. Acta Sociologica 27:3–18.

Touraine, A. 1977. The self-production of society . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Touraine, A. 1981. The voice and the eye: An analysis of social movements . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Two Interpretations of Contemporary Social Change

Alain Touraine

1. Decline or Transformation of Social Movements?

Social movements cannot be identified with campaigns for institutional reforms. But they can be understood as countercultural or "alternative" forms of collective action or as a protest movements, directed against forms of social organization more than against cultural values. These two types of collective action—more "cultural" or more "social"—are present in the seventies and eighties. Both the future and the very nature of what I referred to some ten years ago as the "new social movements" appear to be uncertain. Those who study social movements have taken two views about the future of these movement. The first view sees the end of social movements inasmuch as they are defined as organized collective actions aimed at transforming the social order. According to these observers, our era is characterized by movements that depend on try to expand individual freedom and that oppose the state's power. The social and political space, in German, the "Öffentlichkeit," is becoming a no-man's-land between a more and more individualistic private life that expects society to be permissive and international relations that are dominated by the confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers and by the resistance of Islam and other communitarian movements to Westernization. Social movements, especially the most important one, the labor movement, are melting down because our democratic regimes are able to answer social demands with institutional reforms and because these social movements have often been transformed into instruments of power and repression rather than of protest.

The second view holds that we are living in a period of transition between the decline of the labor movement and the formation of new social movements that belong to postindustrial society. In this society,


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industrialized production and the diffusion of symbolic and cultural goods take the central role that belongs to "productive forces" in industrial society. This period of transition is in many ways similar to the first half of the nineteenth century when social problems, such as poverty and proletarianization, were more visible than were the still fragmentary and repressed social movements.

These two interpretation appear to be entirely opposed to each other; they are not, however, mutually exclusive. Here again, a comparison with the nineteenth century is useful. For liberals, reason and interest were going to displace tradition and privilege. They believed that an open economy and a liberal society would permit a better use of material and human resources and enhance freedom of expression and the circulation of ideas. Such opinions were not rejected by those who identified industrialization with the development of a new economic domination and the class struggle. Marx spoke of the revolutionary action of the bourgeoisie, and most socialist thinkers believed as much in progress as they did in class struggle; they expected the development of productive forces to overcome, both naturally and through purposeful action, the domination of private interests.

These two analyses of social movements are challenges by the liberal-conservative view of a completely open, constantly changing society that no longer has any nature, essence, or center, a society that is nothing but a number of loosely connected changes. Critical sociologist, however, discover conflicts not only in production but in all aspects of social life and see new social movements that challenge social organization as a whole and propose alternative forms of social, economic, and cultural life.

These two images may seem to be so opposed as to be mutually exclusive. The social sciences are confronted with the opposition of these two interpretation of contemporary social changes. The optimistic liberal interpretation seems to be prevailing today or at least is more relevant in a period of new technological developments, milder economic difficulties, and the absence of a major crisis involving the two superpowers. For this reason, I consider the optimistic view first before examining the Idea of new social movements because the existence of such movements has always been depended only by a minority and attacked on one side by liberals and on the other by Marxist structuralists, who discern nothing but the logic of domination and the reproduction of social inequalities in social processes.

2. The End of Society

The main impact of the idea of modernization, in both its positivist and its liberal version, came from its assumption that all social structures and systems of social control are crumbling. Modern societies can no longer be


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defined by principles, values, and norms but instead are defined by change, the triumph of instrumental rationality, and the destruction of all absolute principles. Positivists believed that these evolutionary changes would lead to a scientific society governed by political engineers. Liberals predicted that society would be transformed into a market in which all goods and services would be priced according to their utility.

But this confidence in reason and change could not exclude a deep-seated anxiety: how would it be possible to introduce order into change, that is, to maintain the unity of society, the continuity of law, and the possibility of education in a society that would be like a stream in whose waters one cannot step twice?

Beyond the diversity of its thinkers and schools, sociology is a general interpretation of modern society: its central purpose is to understand the interdependence of order and movement. We must be clear on what classical sociological thought was if we want to understand the importance and the novelty of neomodernist thought, which challenges the solutions that were elaborated by classical sociology during the period of Western industrialization. What we call classical sociology was actually a limited moment in the history of social thought, a moment from which we are probably departing, that was built around the central notion of society.

Modernity can be defined as a process of growing differentiation of economic, political, and cultural subsystems. But the concept of society gained a central importance during the long period that corresponded to a limited development of modernity, when economy, politics, and culture were still closely interrelated. In merchant societies, the state was intervening into economic life to protect roads and ports, to check weights and measures, and to ensure the reliability of currencies. European national states eliminated the power of feudal landlords, private wars, and all obstacles to the circulation of people and goods. They imposed the realm of law over their territories. Of course the state was not only a maker of laws and a judge. It was an absolute power and a maker of wars as well. But the idea of the national state and a direct correspondence between a nation and the state gained ground, first in England and France, then in Sweden. Finally, it triumphed with the American and French revolutions and the Rousseauian ideal of the people's sovereignty.

Before the Renaissance, social thought was the comparative history of civilizations, that is, religions. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries it became political philosophy. Society meant the polity for Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. Tocqueville was more the last of these great political philosophers that the first sociologist. These political philosophers opposed the social to the nonsocial as order to chaos.

The idea of the national state as a unifying principle was then, at a


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higher level of modernization, replaced by the idea of capitalism, because the central agent of social change was no longer the national state but the bourgeoisie. The concept of capitalism is not a purely economic one because it identifies the economic structure with the process of global change. This identification supposes the existence of strong links between "civil society" and the state, between economy and politics. The idea of society finally appeared as a combination of the national state and capitalism. Thus the idea of society, like the earlier idea of the national state, is an effort to link what the process of modernization tends to separate: economics activity, political and military power, and cultural values.

Durkheim among the great classical sociologists has the most anguished awareness of the decomposition of social order and of the necessity to give the idea of society a central role, both in sociological analysis and in the reconstruction of social order. Parsons, in contrast, was more optimistic and gave us a triumphal image of society. He identified society with rationality without sharing Weber's and Durkeim's preoccupation with the consequences of modernization.

The idea of society is to a large extent a myth. It tries to overcome the growing separation of the main elements of social life by introducing a central principle of social organization. This sociologism is criticized by those who observe that modern societies are built on power, exploitation. and was as much as on rationality, law, and science. I am not, however, directly interested in these well-known criticisms. My central preoccupation is with the consequences of contemporary hypermodernization, a development that appears to destroy all unifying myths that try to bring together individualistic culture, constantly changing economic activities, and a state that is more and more directly defined by its political, military, and economic competition with other state. The importance of the idea of society is that contemporary hypermodernization appears to destroy it, and it is doing so as rapidly as industrialization destroyed the idea of the national state and led to the notion of society.

The main characteristic of contemporary modern society is the extreme separation between the state and social life, a separation that can no longer be overcome by another unifying myth. This separation is felt very intensely in Europe, the continent where the first national states were created. The economies and cultures of European nations have become transnational; their citizens use a higher and higher proportion of foreign products and, even more important, they are subordinated to the nuclear superpowers. The separation between the state and social life was felt less intensely in the United States during the years immediately after World War II, which explains the broad influence of Parsons's sociology. But from the 1960s on, American citizens became conscious of


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the separation between state and society. But unlike European countries, their own state had acquired imperial influence, had become a nuclear superpower, and thus could no longer be reduced to a political institution like congress or municipal bodies.

At the same time that military power and international strategy are separating themselves more and more from internal policies, mass consumption is overcoming the barriers of social and economic stratification. Although some sociologist maintain old-fashioned ideas in this area, socioeconomic status clearly has decreasing predictive power in explaining consumption patterns and political choices. Often it is more useful to consider upwardly or downwardly mobile groups or ethnic subcultures than socioeconomic strata in explaining social behavior.

These observations are sufficient to describe the analysis of those who believe in the waning of social movements. Their central idea is that social movements have existed only inasmuch as they were at the same time political movements. They believe that only action against state power gives unity and a central importance to protest movements, which otherwise tend to be diverse and limited. Peasant movements in seventeenth-century France became important only because they opposed state taxes in addition to the domination of the landlords. If it had not been unified by political action, especially by that of the socialist parties, whose main purpose was not to transform working conditions but to conquer political power, what we call the labor movement would have been only a series of limited protest movements. The predominant role of political action in the labor movements is demonstrated by the fact that socialist parties have played their most important role in countries where unions were relatively weak and where purely political problems were more central than social problems, for example, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and France. The idea of socialism as a global social movements has been more actively developed in these countries than in Great Britain or the United States. This observation leads many to conclude that a social movement is actually a mixture of social protest and political action. This mixture often leads to contradictions, as demonstrated in the Soviet Union during the first years after the revolution.

Following the logic of this analysis, if political action and social protest now tend to be more and more separated, social movements must disappear. Liberals, when they go beyond a superficial apology for technological progress and abundance, defend an idea that is as powerful as the ideas of progress and rationalization that were introduced by their predecessors. This idea is the triumph of individualism, that is, the separation between individual needs and aims and state problems. Individualism destroys not only the public space, from institutions to socialization agencies, but also the very possibility of social movements. On one side, liberals


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say, we see the presence of individuals, with their sexuality and violence as well as their need for security and their efforts to climb up the social ladder. On the other side is the state, which is first of all a military power and which is often able to absorb social life and manipulate it, as in communist countries, or to identify itself with nationalist and religious forces, as in many Third World countries. Protest movements appear against the state. They range from the dissidents and the refuseniks in the Soviet Unions to the mass movement in the United States opposing the Vietnam war and include movements opposing the permanent threat of nuclear war. But these antistate movements cannot be identified as social movements.

This hyperliberal view is highly original and creative. It has been reinforced by the necessity to find a way out of structuralist pessimism. If social domination is complete, if the whole of social organization functions as a system of social control that maintains inequality, privileges, and power, if social movements are impossible and social actors illusory, and if nothing exists but integration, manipulation, expulsion, and stigmatization, then the only possible exit is individualism. This was Barthe's and Foucault's answer at the end of their lives and it is also the "California" answer. It is an aesthetism, the search for pleasure, friendship, and voluntary groups, and it is directly inspired by ancient Greece. According to this view, the real objective of the new social movements is to get rid of society, not to transform it. The new social movements are very far from the social movements that struggled for political freedom and social justice, that is, the social ideas corresponding to the unifying myth of the past. The new social movements recognize as their central value the autonomy of individuals and groups. They try to express this autonomy by withdrawal, sectarian behavior, or terrorism. No longer do social movements seek to control the main cultural resources and models of society through conflicts in which enemies are defined by a process of social domination. This liberal criticism of the so-called new social movements is much more interesting than the vague analysis that lumps various currents of opinions, revolts, social demands, innovations, and antistate campaigns together under this name.

The hyperliberal view is far removed from both nineteenth-century optimism and the ideology of classical sociology. This latter body of thought believed in the progressive triumph of civil society over the state and the churches and the parallel development of social and economic integration with social and political movements. This ideology has been particularly strong in the United States, where it is another version of the American dream: the effort to build a society that is at the same time economically dynamic, politically democratic, and socially open to organizational demands and protests. This is why classical sociology was more


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influential in the United States that in Europe, especially between the two world wars and during the 1950s.

Before I consider the issue of the existence of new social movements, we must recognize as a partial conclusion that the image of a civil society in which opposite and complementary social movements conflict with each other while sharing the same confidence in the idea of progress is an illusion. This illusion, however, is still alive. It was directly present in Italian unionism between 1969 and 1975 and in the ideology of self-management that culminated in the LIP strike in France during this same period. These unionists sought to free their movement from the control of political parties and to create a society dominated by face-to-face conflicts and negotiations between management and workers. But we know today—and we should never have forgotten—that the state never can be reduced to the political expression of civil society and cultural demands cannot be identified with programs of social transformation.

Culture, society, and state power are more and more separated from each other. The consequence is that no social movement can bear in itself a model of an ideal society. Their actions are limited. Either the cultural and political unity of the national society is strong, which limits social conflicts and movements, as has generally been the case in the past, or this unity is weak or absent and nothing can integrate cultural demands, which are more and more individualized. The history of modernization is not the victory of the market and economic actors over states and churches but the decomposition of community, the growing separation of state economic activity, and personality problems. At the end of the decomposition of "society," defined as interrelated economic, cultural, and political systems that are integrated by institutions and socialization processes, it seems logical to announce the end of social movements, which are destroyed by the double triumph of individualism and state power and can no longer transform a society that has disappeared.

If we consider not only the most industrialized countries but also the rest of the world, the most important collective movements today are not social movements, such as socialism, communism, or unionism, which have been largely transformed into the ideological bases of state power, but rather the Islamic movement and, more broadly, the movements calling for identity, specificity and community that link cultural demands and state power and suppress, generally in a violent way, public space and social movements. The world appears divided into two parts: Western countries that are dynamic, individualistic, anomic, and deprived or freed from collective action, and Third World countries that are dominated by cultural or even religious nationalism. In between these two parts the communist world crushes both individual demands and collective


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action; its use of the vocabulary of the labor movement only emphasizes communism's destruction.

In such a situation, is it not logical to consider that social movements take place only in historical settings in which principles of social integration and open social conflicts coexist? Without a principle of social integration based on a legitimate state, no central social movement can be created; without open social conflicts and a recognized plurality of interests, social movements are reduced to rebellions. Social movements were, according to this view, directly linked with societies integrated by unifying myths—of the national state or society—as well as with autonomous economics relations. We now observe their decomposition in countries where an absolute state tolerates no diversity and imposes its rule in the name of a communitarian destiny.

3. Postsocial Movements?

The decline of modern societies, together with the consequent decline of the particular stage of social thought we call sociology, leads us to a representation of social life as a flow of continuous changes. It means the triumph of modernization but at the same time the end of the idea of society. Large parts of what we call sociology, if this field of knowledge can be redefined as the study of social life instead of the study of society, corresponds to this purely dynamic view of social life. The modern theory of organizations, which is dominated by H. Simon's concept of limited rationality, is the most elaborate form of such neorationalism. According to this theory, actors do not behave according to their status in the system but according to their position in the process of change. In this approach, a word that has long been marginal in sociology all of a sudden takes on a central importance: that word is "strategy." Individual and collective actors do not act according to values and norms. Rather, like state, they act in strategic ways, trying to get the best possible results in a given process of change that is never completely controlled by a central authority. In a parallel way, Goffman or the ethnomethodologists represent social actors as states who use diplomacy and war in their dealings with other actors, and those other actors are more strangers than partners in a system of roles and role expectations. Social movements cannot appear in such a "Cold War" environment. Strategy does not require either affective mobilization or collective consciousness. It only requires the rational search for optimal solutions, and in particular the minimization of risks and uncertainty.

The importance of strategy does not recall the nineteenth century, whose political life was dominated by mass movements, but the eighteenth


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century, because not ordinary people but powerful elites elaborate strategies. The members of these elites are highly individualistic and value their own pleasure. Such an individualism can go very far in criticizing the established order, social conventions, and moral rules, as far as the Marquis de Sade the legendary figure of Don Juan went. In our time, as in the eighteenth century, love affairs and perspectives on war appear to be more important than social problems and collective protests, which are still loosely organized and which do not represent any major threat to the institutional order. The social scene looks empty in comparison with the overfull theater of the nineteenth century, which was agitated by democratic campaigns, labor movements, and national movements. The contemporary period criticizes principles and methods of social integration and mechanisms of social control more actively than it organizes social conflicts and social movements. The traditions are more directly attacked that domination, and confidence in the future and its opportunities is stronger than criticism of power elites. The idea of postmodernity correctly describes this situation.

We are living in a period dominated by rapid social changes, a deep crisis of established values, and the initiatives of elite groups, who are able to elaborate complex strategies. Our time is also dominated by international problems: the permanent risk of a major crisis involving the two nuclear superpowers and the difficult birth of new national states, especially in the Middle East. Only an empty space exists between Freud and Khomeini. This space used to be occupied by Marx and the social and political thinkers who spoke for the labor and other social movements, both reformist and revolutionary. Social life seems to have lost all principles of unity. It is still possible to define democracy in such a social situation? It seems more appropriate to speak, on the one hand, of the permissiveness of mass society and, on the other hand, of a constant mobilization of the state in dangerous international crises. The state is no longer at the center of society but on its frontier. The unity of social life is limited to mass consumption. It is deprived of any capacity to impose obligations or sanctions but leaves individuals a free space for isolation, withdrawal, or exit. These images correspond especially to the European present because in the Europe the deep crisis of the national states limits nations to the role of members of a more-or-less common market and to an economic and cultural space in which extreme individualism and mass culture easily combine and cooperate in eliminating all kinds of active social and political participation. Intermediary bodies—parties, unions, churches—are weakened. In the gap between planetary and individual problems, it seems impossible to organize collective action. The concept of a good or fair society cannot be defined because the idea of society itself is disappearing. We seldom refer to social systems, institutions,


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and power structures, but we very often refer to processes of change, their risks, and their positive aspects.

Let us accept once more the conclusion of the decline of the idea of society and its direct consequence: the decomposition of collective action aimed at the transformation of social, economic, political organization. But are we allowed to conclude from this waning of a long period of direct correspondence between the national state, socioeconomic organization, and cultural demands that no central principle of social organization can any longer exist and that no social movement, that is, collective action that aims at controlling central cultural resources and models, can be organized? This is the core problem. The notion of social movement is not important if it is used to name a heterogeneous set of protest actions and conflicts that try to modify particular aspects of social and political organization. However, the concept has a central place in sociological analysis if it introduces the hypothesis that there exists in a given society a central conflict—for example, for political liberties or workers' rights—and that this conflict is associated with the defense of central, social, and cultural values, for example, internal peace or economic development. For these reasons, the analysis of social movements cannot be separated from the question of the unity of the social situation in which they appear. In the past we defined this unity as a culture, then as a civilization, then as a political regime, then as the social relations of production, and finally as a socioeconomic system. Does this unity take a new form in contemporary industrialized societies or does it disappear, as I just discussed, to be replaced by boundless and loosely related changes? And what could this principle of unity be if it is no longer the community's rules of exchange, a civilization's collective creeds, the modern national state, or the capitalist system? In the past, modern societies have always provided an answer to this question, introducing a new principle of unity at the same time they were destroying an old principle. But perhaps the moment has come when there is only a nihilist answer to these questions. Is not present-day sociology smothered by the ruins of the idea of society and its concrete expression, the functionalist school?

The answer cannot be a novel one; it must come from the heart of the Western cultural tradition because it necessarily appeared along with the process of modernization itself. I earlier observed that when religion and the political principles of social integration were decaying, the concept of individual subject, that is, the production of individualization, took on an increasing importance. The subject, which Western tradition also refers to as the conscience, is not the expression of an absolute, a transcendence, or an individual existence. It is consciousness of the human capacity to create and transform its environment and culture. During the sixteenth century, modernization not only produced a new rationalism


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and a rapid development of the natural sciences; it is also created, through the Reformation, a new moral individualism. With the development of bourgeois society, emphasis is put on personal feelings, morality and intimacy. Today, the subject is defined by its capacity and right to oppose political or cultural processes and to defend its freedom. The more we move away from religion and what Comte called the metaphysical era, the more the subject stops being transcendent and transforms itself into a principle of protest against the social and political order.

The idea of subject is both linked and opposed to the idea of individual. It is linked because it presupposes the loosening of communitarian bonds and even social roles; it is opposed because utilitarianism leads to a deterministic view of human behavior, which is supposed to be led by self-interest. On the contrary, the defense of personal freedom and, more especially, of the capacity for each individual to choose and control his individual life creates a constant tension between the logic of social integration and the reference to human rights.

The individual subject can be the principle of collective action only when two conditions are met. The first is that the defense of the subject must no be just a call for identity; rather, it should be a force of opposition to the dominations exerted on the person's language, tastes, values, and projects. Such a defense becomes much more important today than it was in the past because the industrialized production and diffusion of cultural goods are growing rapidly in importance. The second condition is that the individual cannot represent himself as a subject if he does not recognize other individuals as subjects. This idea has assumed a more and more central place in our culture; we call it "love." The individual becomes a subject through love and ceases to be a subject when he or she denies other individuals the right or the possibility to be subjects, as Levinas repeatedly pointed out.

The contrast with industrial society is striking. The liberation of individuals and societies was identified with the development of "production forces," and freedom was identified with modernization. In a postindustrial society—defined by the central role of "cultural" industries—freedom of the individual subject must be defended against mass production and mass consumption. The image of our society is dominated by this bipolar view, rationalization on one side, "subjectivation, that is, the recognition of the rights of the persons and groups," on the other, instead of the unified "progressive" view of modernity, which is so visible in theories of modernization. This transformation is probably more acutely felt in Europe that in North America because of the memory of the totalitarian regimes that destroyed European nineteenth-century optimism. Social movements no longer pretend to control and reorient the process of modernization; they oppose moral principles to "total" powers. These


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new movements not only assert principles and aims; they also define themselves by their opposition to the social and cultural forces that dominate the production of symbolic goods. These movements consider such a conflict to be central to the new postindustrial society, which is organized around the production of symbolic or cultural services, such as the mass media, which shape our images of the world, medical care, which determines our perceptions of life, birth, reproduction, illness, and death, and to a certain extent of science and education.

Once again, let us compare the two opposite images of social life. What we have described on the one side is the image of diverse and continuous change that eliminates all principles of unity and integration of the social system and completely separates individual actors. These actors follow utilitarian strategies in the states that are more and more the makers of war and less and less the makers of the law. On the other side is the image of a social system organized around the production and diffusion of cultural goods and structured by conflicts between those who rule this production and those who resist the domination that is exerted on them not as citizens or workers but as persons.

These two images are not contradictory: they are both complementary and opposed. Democracy cannot exist if there is no exit from a central social conflict and if there is no external element that can mediate between conflicting interests. The liberal reference to social change and to the creation of new opportunities is the classical way of finding compromises between opposing class interests. An open geographical, technological, and economic frontier allows a society to negotiate the results of growth instead of being stifled by a paralyzing conflict. But if social conflicts must be complemented by an open political system, such a system, to be representative and democratic, needs to be based on the social conflicts.

Although complementary in some ways, these two images are nevertheless opposed to each other. The strategic approach to social life corresponds better to the interest of powerful categories, the conflict-oriented approach attracts those who feel dominated, and the idea of subject appeals more directly to intellectuals. But this apparent opposition is a limited one. First, the idea of the subject is not a purely abstract one in a society where the main social conflicts are organized around it. Second, utilitarianism is not to be found only among rich and powerful people in a mass-consumption society. Finally, social conflicts and the subject are concepts that cannot be separated from each other: the central social conflicts concern conflicting views about subject-building. Liberal utilitarianism, social movements, and the idea of the subject are as interrelated as opposed teams and the field on which they compete.

It is more useful to recognize that each of these three main themes can


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take a relatively different importance according to the historical situation. Here we can use the Greek differentiation between periods and epochs, that is, between types of societies and processes of transition. Periods are historical ensembles organized around particular cultural orientations and social conflicts. Epochs are moments of rupture and transformation. During the epoch of transition, such as the Renaissance, individualism, the rejection of traditional rules, stronger competition, and the risk of war gain around. Do we live today in a new historical period or are we still in an epoch of rupture and transition? I believe that we are leaving such an epoch. What have been called new social movements during the 1970s and the early 1980s expressed in many cases this crisis of industrial values, the push toward a more permissive society, and a deep preoccupation with the risks of war. During the last decade the desocialization of society has been highly visible. This situation recalls the end of the nineteenth century when Durkheim was acutely sensitive to the decomposition of traditional forms of social control, and when Weber, going beyond his misgivings about the effects of modernization, was fascinated by the value-orientations of a modernized society.

There is another way of contrasting historical situations. Sometimes the subject becomes self-aware through achievement and "engagement." Other times, however, the subject becomes self-aware through struggling against reification, that is, disengaging, and freeing himself or herself from the world of objects. Thus an epic image of the subject is criticized by a romantic image of its process of self-production. The subject is never located in the middle of social life, as is the image of the prince or symbols of national unity; it is the common reference of conflicting social actors, both in their positive projects and in their attacks against what they consider to be dangerous for the subject. No particular actor can identify himself or herself with the subject.

I conclude that the hypermodernity of our society, because it destroys the possibility of a permanent order and the very idea of society, makes the formation of "proper" social movements impossible. But collective movements have not always been social; often, before developing in a political or economic arena, they had been religious. Conflicting social interests and cultural innovations expressed themselves in religious forms from the time of ancient societies to the European sixteenth century. In the same way, what we call social movements are becoming less specifically social. Their main objective is no longer to create an ideal society but to defend the freedom and creativity of the subject in a universe that appears to be dominated by money and pleasure, technology and war. Perhaps we are already living in a new historical period, in a postindustrial society. One of the arguments in favor of such a hypothesis


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is the necessity to distinguish between two kinds of collective actions that are different from the social movements characteristic of industrial society: on one side are a new progress of individualism and a new fear of war and catastrophes; on the other side are the new social movements that challenge the control of cultural goods.

4. Social Movements and Historical Movements

In the preceding section I concluded that there has been neither the triumph of social movements in a society that has become entirely civil, as the nineteenth- and twentieth-century progressives hoped, nor their disappearance. Rather we see a growing separation between the two axes of collective action on which social actors may be situated: synchronic and diachronic. The synchronic axis situates actors by their roles in a social system that is defined by the level of "historicity" (that is, the capacity of self-production). The diachronic axis situates actors by their participation in the process of change and by the strategies that orient this process. When speaking of social movements we refer almost exclusively to dominated and powerless actors. Earlier I observed that strategies of change or development are more easily elaborated by powerful elite groups. It is a mistake, however, to identify each of these main orientations of collective behavior with a specific social category. Instead, we must offer a more complete view of the actors in social life and the historical process by defining both the dominant and the dominated actors in structural conflicts and processes of historical change. The term social movement should not be used to characterize only opposition forces or low-status groups. On the contrary, the term identifies the main actors—both dominant and dominated—of central social conflicts through which the main cultural resources and values are transformed into forms of political and social organization. Social movements are those movements that deal with structural problems in a given society. Historical movements are those that aim at control of process of historical development. The separation between the two categories of problems and actors is more extreme in our societies, which have achieved a high level of historicity, than it was during the industrial period. Although British and American social thought was more influenced by liberalism and emphasized processes of change, German and French social thinkers, especially the Marxists, emphasized structural conflicts.

Having recognized the strength and influence of the hyperliberal ideas that identify social problems with processes of social change and modernization, let us begin the effort to give a more complete view of collective actors in our society by considering the historical movements that opposes the process of change and the elite that controls this process.


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The antinuclear and ecological movements oppose a hyperindustrialization that destroys natural equilibriums and reinforces militarism. They attack not only the social elite but also the belief in economic growth and new technology, which they consider illusory, dangerous, and self-destructive and which they believe create unbearable tensions and conflicts in the world that can lead to an apocalyptic war. These criticisms are generally directed against technocrats, but often they have an anticapitalist component that maintains a certain continuity with the labor movement. The continuity from revolutionary socialism to new social movements was enhanced by the central role of radical leftist in the protest campaigns that gained momentum after 1968. This radicalism expressed itself through a post-Marxist structuralism that denounced all aspects of social life as representing the logic domination, manipulation, and exclusion in favor of the ruling groups. This radical criticism is directed against what Althusser called the state's ideological apparatuses. This expression makes clear that the enemy is no longer a social class or even a power elite but the state itself as a system of total control. This is a clear demonstration that this radicalism is not a social movement but a historical movement, and that it is more antimodern or antistate than anticapitalist. Its main preoccupation is to fight the identification of the totalitarian state with modernization and growth.

This absence of concern with defining relevant social actors and the global character of its attacks differentiate these "critical" intellectuals from social movements, which are always organized around a social conflict between clearly defined actors. Historical movements constantly swing from a countercultural global critique to a series of loosely connected campaigns because the absence of a clear definition of the parties to a social conflict deprives it of any principle of stabilization. Nevertheless, historical movements like political ecology are not just countercultural; they combine a critique of the process of economic change with attacks against a power that is defined more in political than in social terms. When this conflict-oriented dimension disappears, a historical movement can be transformed into a sect that marginalizes itself by rejecting society's cultural orientations and forms of social organization.

If we define a social movement as the confrontation of opposed groups for the control and use of the main cultural resources and values, in knowledge and ethics as much as in economic life, antinuclear and ecological actions are not social movements. Rather they are "alternative" movements that try to globally transform cultural orientations, social organization, and political power. Their antimilitarist and antimodernist actions are directly opposed to the individualism and strategies of the ruling group, which values any social change it can use for its own interest. The ruling group's historical optimism values utility and pleasure;


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the pessimism of alternative movements opposes policies and programs it considers to be carried forward by impulses of power and death.

These two movements have one thing in common: they are both more political than social, that is, they question processes of changes rather than forms of social organization. Their common strength is to define themselves at the state level and to intervene directly at the center of public life.

The new social movements that protest the power that controls the productions of cultural goods are different and in many ways opposed to these historical, "alternative" movements. Debates and conflicts about the effects of the mass media or biological and medical technologies are not political discussions. Rather they question a sociocultural domination while accepting a positive judgment about modern technology in general. Today, as at the beginning of industrial society, social movements and historical movements are both mixed and separated, but a great distance always exists between social movements that attack civil powers and historical movements that oppose the state. This distance is now even larger than was the gap that separated labor unions from communist or socialist groups at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Feminist movements are more complex. It is necessary to distinguish in them at least two different orientations. On one side exists a feminist liberalism, which is an emancipatory movement following the tradition of British and American nineteenth-century reform movements. This movement rejects the identification of women with private life and fights for an equal participation of women in all aspect of public life and in all occupations, law and politics in particular. Simone de Beauvoir was the central figure of this progressive liberalism, which occasionally becomes radical by linking itself to socialist ideas but is most influential among women who enter into social and occupational elites. The women's liberation movement is quite different from this liberal or radical feminism. It emphasizes the particular features of feminine sexuality and fights directly against male domination. This movement has been especially active in the United States and its links with psychoanalysis have been emphasized both by American writers and by A. Fouque, head of the most militant group in France. The liberal wing of the women's liberation movements is a historical movement, and its optimism is similar to the orientations of dominant groups. The radical wing of the women's liberation movement is a social movement of opposition. It is fragile because it emphasizes women's sexuality and the differences between men and women. The difficulty of building equal heterosexual relations runs the risk of isolating militant women in a homosexual rupture that could result in the creation of a marginal cultural that ceases to be a social movement. This fragility, which contrasts with the efficiency of liberal feminism, should not prevent us


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from recognizing the deep and lasting effect of a movement that transforms the man-woman relationship.

The experience of industrial society clearly indicates the two main obstacles that hinder the development of social movements. On the one hand, such movements, because they are not political but purely social, are likely to dissolve into a plurality of campaigns and protest movements. On the other hand, if they are tightly linked with political action—as was unionism, which was generally subordinated to socialist parties—this action imposes its rules on the social movements and can even lay the groundwork for a new "popular" political power that suppresses social movements and public liberties.

Contemporary antinuclear movements are far from serving an authoritarian state, but their main strength comes from an antistate orientation. This orientation is especially evident in Germany, a country that is still dominated by the horrors of the Nazi regime. This antinationalism represents, as much as nationalism, a predominance of political over social orientations.

The idea of a growing separation between social and historical movements will not be accepted easily. On the contrary, many people think that the distance between these two kinds of collective action is shrinking and even disappearing. This idea was one of the main assumptions of gauchisme and I consider it to be one of the main obstacles to the formation of social movements in Western countries. If we consider Soviet society, it is true that the global, national and cultural protest of Solzhenitsyn or Bukovskii was stronger, at least during the Brezhnev period, than the social criticism elaborated by Plioucht or Sakharov. But when we consider Western countries it is false and almost preposterous to say that all aspects of social life are subordinated to the interventions of a repressive and military state power.

It is too early to know how new social movements will grow, but it seems reasonable to expect that the social movements that question cultural domination will be more distant from political action than was the labor movement in industrial society, and will be even more distant than the movements of peasants and craftsmen that characterized preindustrial societies. In many countries, especially in Germany and France, we observed the separation of two types of protest. In France, two opposite movements came from May 1968: one attacked the state and used a vocabulary that came from the revolutionary tradition; the other gave life to grassroots movements, in particular to women's liberation and campaigns on behalf of immigrant workers. In other countries the same duality is visible. For example, in the United States during the 1960s the student movement at Berkeley was quite different from the radical political orientation of student protest on campuses like Columbia or Cornell.


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These new social movements, like their predecessors, have both a defensive and an offensive face. The defensive face is the more visible: the defense of identity and, sometimes, of community against the domination of new technologies and new power. The stronger this defensive action, the more likely the social movement or the historical movement is to fight against the state because when a social actor feels unable to make headway he rejects society, power, and modernity in a global way. An offensive action tends to identify itself in an optimistic way with the new cultural orientations it seeks to control and to reject its enemies as obstacles to progress. The risk here for social movements is to become incorporated too early and too easily into the institutional system and to be absorbed by political forces. Offensive action reveals more clearly the problems and orientations of a postindustrial society. In particular, it substitutes the idea of system for the old idea of evolution, and it acts on behalf of a cultural rather than an economic concern.

The liberal critique of social movements has rightly shown that new social movements must leave the political field, strictly speaking, because they defend individuals who feel threatened—but at the same time excited—by the new cultural productions. Private life does not replace public life, as is too often contended; rather it becomes the core of public life. Culture becomes political in much the same way that the economy became political in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when workers and craftsmen fought as producers and as agents of a practical reason that opposed itself to the irrationality of profit.

Today individuals are dominated in their perceptions and emotions. They cannot resist this domination but oppose it with the whole of their personalities, their imaginations, their primary groups, and their personal projects. This view of the individual corresponds to the new global definition of the social field, which is no longer a collective activity that transforms nature but a system whose elements are interdependent and whose modernity is defined by its level of complexity and its capacity for internal and external communication. A society of communication replaces a society of production in the same way that a Cartesian "soul" is replaced by an existentialist image of the subject.

To round out this definition of the main social and historical actors of our time, let us not forget the social movement created by those who control the production and diffusion of cultural goods. The leaders of these industries, like all dominant groups, are not just looking for more profit or more power; they seek to create a social movements that organizes the main cultural resources and models of our society in a way that corresponds to their interests. This new elite speaks of creativity, complexity, and freedom of choice. It links these values to the development of a centralized system of cultural production and to the diffusion of new


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needs and new values of success and seduction. In particular, it favors the search for pleasure, commercial eroticism, and the discovery of cultures that are historically or geographically different from ours. These are important elements of the elite's ideology. Social movements of opposition criticize its emphasis on acquisitiveness and on symbols of social status, as well as its commercialization of interpersonal and cultural experiences.

5. From Old to New Social Movements

The protest movements, opinion campaigns, and social conflicts that are lumped under the vague name of social movements and that attracted the interest of an unusually large number of sociologists during the 1970s are a very heterogeneous set of collective actions. Here I seek to disentangel the phenomena that have been mixed together in a situation of economic and cultural crisis. Let us sum up the results of our analysis. Three main types of collective behavior may be distinguished.

The first type includes those that manifest the crisis and decline of industrial society. After a long period of growth and the predominance of the ideology of modernization, protest movements reject the very idea of development. The Clud of Rome was one of the first groups to criticize the myth of endless growth and to recognize the limits of growth.

Many people today are convinced that we should end development and enter into a new equilibrium. They defend the idea of a self-sustaining equilibrium against the idea of self-sustained growth. The fascination with oriental cultures stems from this idea. Although only superficially known, these cultures are used as expressions of opposition to aggressive rationalism.

The second type of collective behavior focuses on the hypermodernist ideas in which systems and structures are replaced by processes of change. The more optimistic groups have developed strategic views of these changes to use them on behalf of their own interests. The more pessimistic groups are preoccupied with a possible loss of individual cultural identity and the uprootedness of a society that is more and more similar to a market in which nothing prevents the stronger from dominating the weaker.

The convergence of the critique of industrial society, sometimes inherited from socialist ideas, and antidevelopmentalism led to the success of a gauchisme that took new forms by fighting cultural as well as economic domination. But this gauchisme was far from being a class-conscious movement like the labor movement. It was not even specifically anticapitalist. Rather it rejected all aspect of the process of modernization and cultural change. It did not believe in the existence of collective actors or the possibility of new liberation movements. It limited itself to opposing a


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complete and closed system of domination. Its pessimism came in part from its tendency to maintain itself within the limits of industrial capitalism, Marxism, and the labor movement and in part from the fact that it was highly conscious of the failure and crimes of the regimes that pretended to come out of the labor movement and to be socialist. That explains its view of society as a coherent system of signs and instruments of domination. Its image of social life can be called semiological because it considers all social phenomena as signs of an omnipresent logic of domination and exclusion. This extreme view attained a predominant influence in sociology during the 1970s after the collapse of the optimistic view of social development shared by both functionalists and Marxists. It penetrated sociological thought in the United States later than in Europe but maintained itself later in the United States than in France, where it almost entirely disappeared at the end of the 1970s. Only in Germany did it rest on a solid intellectual tradition.

The third type of collective behavior involves the control and use of the main cultural resources. On one side, a dominant ideology emphasizes the individualism of consumers and proudly creates a society that is ever richer in information and capacities for communication. On the other side, opposition movements defend identity and community but imagine at the same time a society more favorable to initiative, personal development, and interpersonal communications.

Sociological analysis, which separates the various meanings of collective behavior, can never be identified with historical analysis because historical analysis gives a synthetic view of the various analytical meanings entwined in complex phenomena. What sociological analysis considers to be most important is not in general what has the deepest and most lasting effects from the point of view of historical analysis. Protest movements depend for their historical successes or failures on external factors even more than on their intrinsic importance. The relative historical importance of crisis behavior, reactions to change, and social movements depends first of all on the capacity of a collectivity to pass from one societal form to another. When dynamism and creativity are at a low level, crisis behavior and critiques of modernization are strong. When the construction of a new type of society and culture is active, positive and negative reactions to social change gain ground. Finally, when a new type of society has already been built and when the rupture with interests and values of the old society is complete, new social movements gain a central place and define new problems and values.

In a schematic way, crisis behaviors are still stronger in Europe, especially in the oldest industrial countries, and positive and negative reactions to social change are predominant in the United States. Thus new social movements are formed in different contexts on the two sides


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of the Atlantic. In some European countries, especially Germany, critical social thought is stronger because it is more directly based on antistate attitudes. In the United states, the creation of new cultural orientations is more active because new social movements are linked, as in Germany, with antistate attitudes but, unlike Germany, the attacks are more directed against an "imperialist" state than the destruction of society by state power. For this reason new social movements are more influential in the United states but critical action and radical ideas are more important in Germany. France is the unexpected case of a country where a period of active cultural and social innovation (around 1968) was followed by a successful effort to revive old models of social and political action and by a strong distrust of all social movements, a result of a protracted influence of the communist party on the French intelligentsia. These factors reinforce the tradition subordination in France of social movements to political forces that express the growing political influence of the new middle classes, which were republican in the nineteenth century and are socialist in the twentieth century.

But, on the whole, more optimistic can be reached. Western countries are emerging from a long period of crisis. At first they were dominated by a pessimistic version of social ideas that corresponded to industrial society and by a structural Marxism that eliminated social actors and movements from its analysis. Then at the end of the 1970s came a short period when private issues completely dominated public life. Soon new economic and technological development and the success of liberal ideas favored either a conservative nationalism or, in a deeper sense, the interpretation of a new cultured situation by dominant groups. New movements of opposition are organizing themselves in the face of this dominant ideology. As at the beginning of industrialization in the nineteenth century, these movements are now going through a phase of utopian communism and infantilism. Their new demands are too early and too easily institutionalized in our open political system. These two factors make it difficult to form new social movements, but it would be a mistake not to perceive that the social scene has already been transformed. The first observers who spoke, fifteen years ago, of a postindustrial society have been accused with some reason of not having distinguished clearly enough postindustrial from industrial society. Today it is easier to see that technological transformation represent only a new stage of industrialism and that new cultural and social demands appear—in the cultural sphere—far from the economic and occupational area and constitute the main basis of postindustrial society.

These transformations of social practices call for a new representation of social life. We need new sociological models or a new kind of social


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thought. This thought should be as different from classical sociology as that body of thought was from the political of the sixteenth or eighteenth centuries. The central question of the new type of social analysis is the following: when all absolute principles of social organization have disappeared and when a more complex civil society has separated itself completely from the state and no longer derives any principle of unity from it, should we abandon the very idea of social system? Or put another way, should we only conceive of social life as a flow of changes in which social actors elaborate rational strategies or resist a flow that is dominated by a state that is no longer a political institution and is more and more a maker of war?

Although developing a critique of the idea of society, my analysis affirms that social life has a unity. It is a system that is defined and constituted by the conflicting relationship between dominant and dominated groups for the control of what I call historicity, that is, the main cultural models through which a collectivity shapes its relationship with its environment. Our "society" no longer has any institutional or moral unity, sovereignty, or central principle of legitimacy. It does, however, have the unity of a drama.

Many people have thought that the decline of all forms of transcendence would lead to triumph of the rational pursuit of interest and the transformation of society into a marketplace. These is the dominant assumption of present-day historical movements, including both those in favor of such an evolution and those opposed to it. But the best social thinkers have always recognized, in addition to interests, the existence of convictions. When the process of secularization triumphs, the world of religious and political passions does not disappear; it becomes social. Gods were replaced by reason and reason by history; now history is replaced by the subject. Social life can never be reduced to rationality and conflicts of interests. On the contrary, economic behavior is integrated into social movements that fight for the social control of cultural values, that is, for the transformation of convictions into forms of social organization.

From industrial to postindustrial society, collective action stops being explained by social or economic situation. Classes, as defined by a situation, are being replaced by social movements and by the action of social categories that are defined by both relations of domination and cultural orientations. This eliminates the notions of human nature and natural law but it also eliminates the ideas of the laws of historical evolution and economic structure. All aspects of social organization result from the conflictual process of the self-production of social life.

In the present intellectual situation the most urgent task is to reintroduce the ideas of modernity and development that have been so strongly


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attacked during the last twenty years. The analysis of social movements is linked with the idea that the level of self-production of social life tends to rise and to create new opportunities and new conflicts. The idea, so fashionable today, of postmodernity is useful only if it frees us from the exhausted industrial image of modernity. Postmodernity corresponds to a moment in which the consciousness of historicity in lost, in which "mannerism" is triumphant in art, and in which intellectual no longer appear to be able to express and represent collective and personal experiences. Postmodernity corresponds to decreased creativity and a crisis of collective action.

It is urgent to analyze new forms of cultural creation, social domination, and social movements. It is also urgent to overcome the strange pessimism that foresees the decline of our democracy even as we observe a rapid extension and diversification of public opinion and the public space, an evolution at least as important as the new threats appearing against our liberties. Social thought has been dominated too long by the crises of industrial society, the labor movement, and the ideologies, optimistic or pessimistic that were linked with them. Today we lack a general analysis of social changed and the new forms of cultural and social life that are rapidly spreading around us. Sociological analysis cannot rise as late as Minerva's bird. It is rather at dawn, when a new day begins and new images and new people appear on the social scene, that sociologists must understand the new drama that is being performed.


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Dialectics of Modernity:
Reenchantment and Dedifferentiation as Counterprocesses

Edward A. Tiryakian

A generation ago the sociology of development featured as vast literature having modernization as leitmotif. Owing to a variety of factors, some intellectual and others ideological, adepts of modernization analysis (with some notable exceptions, such as Inkeles [1983]) have left center stage in macrosociology. The intention of this chapter is neither to recall them for a belated encore nor to drive unnecessary nails into the coffin of a superannuated theory. I would, however, like to make some extended reflection on that fundamental social state necessarily presumed by the term "modernization": namely, "modernity" itself. The concept of modernity was never really given its theoretical due in the heyday of modernization analysis but, by quirk of fate, it is in period of global socioeconomic crisis (Amin 1982; Brandt Commission 1983; Tiryakian 1984) that the theme of modernity has become a fruitful heuristic vein of sociological analysis. The concept has, however, been shorn of the optimistic and evolutionist biases of the modernization paradigm, biases that tacitly equated the end point of modernization with a Camelot-like United States and extension with pax Americana.

If American sociologist were the major contributors to comparative modernization analysis (Black 1976), the recent major writings on the theme of modernity have had as many inputs from one side of the Atlantic as from the other (for example, Balandier 1985; Bell 1985; Berger 1973, 1977; Bernstein 1985; Eisenstadt 1973; Featherstone 1985; Habermas 1981, [1981] 1984; Nelson 1981; Tiryakian 1985a; Touraine 1984). Thus modernity is a choice topic for an exchange of theoretical perspectives such as the present volume. Having examined the burgeoning literature on modernity I propose that the single major background figure who is the common denominator to the various approaches on the


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problematics of modernity is Max Weber. Weber left us an important patrimony by indicating the complexities of the broad sociohistorical process that underlay the development of Western modern society. He saw societal, even civilization, change as real (that is, having objective social consequences) but not as teleological. And it is the very ambiguity of the modern situation, so accurately and poignantly presented by Weber, that gives him wide appeal today.[1] I propose to take two important facets of modernity that stem from Weber that seem to be accepted as "givens" by various writers and argue that a comprehensive analysis of large-scale change requires these two facets to be related to counter-processes of change.

Weber's legacy is multilayered and multitiered, but there are two central and interrelated Weberian themes commonly accepted by scholars of different ideological leanings (for example, Luhmann 1982; Tilly 1984; Habermas [1981] 1985) as being the master processes of Western social change: differentiation and rationalization. If these are the processes of social change that have generated the modern Western capitalist industrial social order (including its bureaucratic forms of social organization), the competitive civilization advantages of the West, for Weber, has also required an ancillary sociopsychological process of no less significance in the formation of Western modernity. That process involves emptying the world of magic (Entzauberung ), a process stemming from the interrelated cognitive shift to this world as the iocus of salvific activities (hence a devaluation of the sacraments as ingress to otherworldly salvation), and the replacement of magic by rational calculation. This process is exemplified by the way that the scientific method has become the accepted mode of mastering the world.

The heart of Weber's perspective is expressed in two passages in his famous address, "Science as a Vocation." In the first Weber links scientific progress today to a broader Western process of "intellectualization" or "intellectualist rationalization," which

means that principal there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather that one can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means that the world is disenchanted . One need no longer have recourse to magical means in order to master or implore the spirits….


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Technical means and calculations perform the service. This above all is what intellectualization means. (Weber 1985, 138, emphasis mine)

The second passage is Weber's pithy summarization of the present age:

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the "disenchantment of the world." Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. (Weber 1958, 155)

The major contemporary social theorist Habermas acknowledges the legacy of Weber's interpretation. He observes:

Weber's investigations can be used to substantiate the view that all the paths of rationalization branching through civilizations … in the same direction, that of a disenchanted understanding of the world purified of magical ideas. ([1981] 1985, 196)

Weber judges the rationalization of worldviews by the extent to which magical thinking is overcome. In the dimension of ethical rationalization, he observes disenchantment primarily in the interaction between the believer and God…. In the cognitive dimension, disenchantment of the manipulation of things and events goes along with a demythologization of the knowledge of what is…. With this the fixation on the surface of concrete phenomena that is anchored in myth can be superseded in favor of a disinterested orientation to general laws underlying the phenomena. ([1981] 1985, 212–13)

Although Weber's famous thesis concerning the religious grounds of Western modernity continues to be contested (Marshall 1982), including even his interpretation of the Puritan doctrine of predestination (Roth 1986), his pronouncements on rationalization, differentiation, and disenchantment as the key factors of Western modernity have become an integral part of the sociological canon. Indeed, several features of late-twentieth-century society may be thought of as further accentuating the keys aspects of modernity advanced by Weber so many years ago.

For the sake of brevity let me choose just a few illustrations. In four decades the computer revolution has brought about changes as momentous as those of the industrial revolution two hundred years ago. of course this still-unfolding revolution is radical extension of the process of rationalization and mastering the world through exact calculations. Computer technology is enabling us to systematically explore both microscopic and macroscopic worlds, from cells and genes to planets and galaxies, with the result that the boundaries of the life-world are rapidly changing. Also the continuous progress of the life sciences and biotechnological.


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developments is redrawing the frontiers of knowledge about the biochemical bases of life and death. In the process the disenchantment of the world has taken a new turn as human beings increase their empirical knowledge and ability to control the processes of reproduction. The ability to control and limit reproduction, which is conducive to changes in morality, and the ability to gain advance information concerning the fetus are contributing to the further disenchantment of the world by taking away the allure, mystery, and charm of sexuality and gender. This, perhaps, has been the ultimate domain of enchantment. It has also been a primitive domain because fertility rites have universally been used be religious cults in harnessing magical forces.

For good measure we might propose one further domain that has become increasingly disenchanted in the present century: the domain of authority. The disenchantment of authority is part of the process of secularization, and one can point to the Reformation and the disenchantment of papal authority as the beginning of this trend. The disenchantment of monarchical authority began in England in the seventeenth century with the regicide of Charles I. This event ended the view of the monarch as a divine representative who was the incarnation of magical powers. The Enlightenment and the industrial revolution further diminished the sacred aura of the monarch, leading in the nineteenth century to either republican regimes or constitutional monarchies as the typical bases of the Western polity. Monarchical and imperial authority were even more impaled during World War I, in Europe (the demise of Austria-Hungary and Wilhelmine Germany) and elsewhere (the Ottoman Empire, China, etc.). World War II and its aftermath not only witnessed the demise of some remnant monarchies (for example, in the Balkan countries) but, more important, the demise of colonial authority and the total disenchantment of the colonial premise of "assimilation." In our recent past political authority in Western democracies has been further disenchanted, both because of Watergate and because of the broader aspects of political delegitimation involved in this "twilight of authority" (Nisbet 1975).[2]

Weber's basic perspective on modernity may be termed a post-or late-Enlightenment view of the significant underlying processes of Western social change: it lacks the optimism and some of the presuppositions of the philosophes but still contains the core belief that human endeavors—scientific, political, and economic—can lead in the not-too-distant future to the regeneration of the human condition without recourse to the transcendental. Thus Weber's thought shares the general liberal orientation


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of modern social science toward modernity (Seidman 1983; Ezrahi 1990).

To be sure, the tumultuous events of the past twenty years or so, coming on top of the global wars and totalitarian regimes that severely pockmarked the West, have greatly shaken and modified the liberal perspective. Youth movements of the counterculture (Yinger 1982; Leventman 1982), autonomist movements against the nation-state (Tiryakian and Rogowski 1985), and movements of religious fundamentalism have suggested to several scholars that the "revolt against modernity" (an identical title used by Lipset [1980] in the context of political movements and by Bell [1985] with respect to cultural movements) has deep roots and merits attention even though the secular trends still point to the fulfillment of the promises of the Enlightenment. Here again, let me invoke Habermas as illustrative of the late-twentieth-century heirs of the Enlightenment-Weberian perspective. To cite Bernstein:

One might epitomize Habermas' entire intellectual project and his fundamental stance as writing a new Dialectic of Enlightenment —one which does full justice to the dark side of the Enlightenment legacy … but nevertheless redeems and justifies the hope of freedom, justice, and happiness. The project of modernity, the hope of Enlightenment thinkers, is not a bitter illusion … but a practical task which has not yet been realized and which can still orient our actions. (1985, 31)

Perhaps we might best speak of the current sociological evaluation of modernity as pluralistic.[3] The public arena is not as bereft or disenchanted of magical or mystical (or, very broadly, irrational ) currents and movements as Weber's image of modernity seemed to suggest. These movements and orientations, which might be taken as a subclass of Weber's Wertrationalität (Weber 1978, 1:24–26), are seen by some not just as aberrations of modernity but as providing new vehicles of meaning to modernity in a period that is characterized by disenchantment with progress but enchantment with scientific and technological advances (Swatos 1983; Balandier 1985, 149–52). In other words, the values of liberalism and their institutionalization in the public and cultural agencies of modern Western societies have become acknowledged as no longer sufficient to define the situation of modernity; at the same time the countervalues and counterprocesses that have surfaced in the past twenty years are not themselves taken as the parameters of a new order to modernity.

The recent rethinking of modernity has provided an important, albeit perhaps painful, corrective evaluation of our present situation and the


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processes of social change that have formed it in the immediate past. However, in my judgment there is need both to broaden the theoretical refinement of the master processes of change in the West and to question the assumption that the fate of modernity and the fate of the West are so inextricably bound as to be for all practical purposes one and the same. The theoretical position I advance is that Western sociology—and here we include the Marxist as well as the liberal traditions together as one general macrofamily—is correct in viewing Western civilization as dynamic and as having exerted a mighty influence vis-à-vis other regions of the globe for two or more centuries. But the very dynamics of change of Western modernity have contained not only the processes of differentiation and disenchantment but also the processes of dedifferentiation and reenchantment. These two latter processes should be seen neither as aberrations in the major evolutionary trajectory of modernity nor as nugatory and epiphenomenal but rather as fundamental to the dialectics of change. They may be termed "counterprocesses" of modernity, akin to Boulding's notion of "anti-tropic processes" that offset the exhaustion of a system's potential in the production process (Boulding 1985, 16).

1. Reenchantment

The intellectual view that magic and enchantment were driven out of the dominant sphere of Western culture has two major periods of modernity in mind. The first is that of Reformation Europe when Protestantism (especially among the Puritan and the radical sects) stripped the world of the magical mystification associated with the Catholic Church (the sacramental system, the cult of saints, belief in miracles, and the other features of the popular religion). The second period, which may be thought of as a "mop-up" phase of secularization, is that of the nineteenth century, when empirical science replaced religious versions of world reality with its own accounts.

I contend here that this view grossly simplifies the relationship of enchantment to Western modernity in that it essentially conceives of enchantment and modernity as incompatible and that advances of modernity necessarily require cognitive and cultural disenchantment. In fact, from the Enlightenment on the cultural sphere has had a variety of new ways of viewing the world as magical and enchanted. This is what I mean by "reenchantment." I further contend that advances of modernity in the West evince components of reenchantment, particularly but not exclusively in the cultural sphere.

A neglected feature of "the secularization of the European mind," to borrow Chadwick's phrase (1979), is the "alteration of consciousness" in the Western mentality. I shall sketch the major aspects of this process and


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its manifestations in the recent modern period and defer for another occasion a more detailed treatment with documentation.

Weber's crucial insight concerning the shift in the focus of salvific activities to this world is highly pregnant but calls for additional theoretical analysis. The shift entails secularization, but only if we understand by this term that what previously was seen as "mundane" came (not immediately, of course, but over the course of time) to be viewed as having religious significance in its own right. The Protestant deemphasis of the church's sacraments and sacred images, all of which pointed to the marvels of the "other world," went hand in hand with the sacralization of formerly "mundane" human spheres: work (which of course received paramount attention by Weber), predication (the reemphasis of the "word" of God rather than the images of God), and—particularly in the nineteenth century, although it began with Luther—the domesticity and the sacredness of the conjugal unit.

This shift of sacredness from the transcendental or otherworldly sphere, where human agency has very little efficacy or power, to this world, where human agency has much greater rein, is one of the most important features of Western modernity. It involves a rejection of the fatalistic attitude that what happens in this world is predetermined, inherent, or follows inexorable laws.[4] Once the Western mentality came to the awareness that human agency was decisive in this world and free of otherworldly supervision, it also, ironically, became free to see anew that this world was differentiated between what was marvelous, enchanted, and magical and what was not. In this transformation otherworldly beings, space, etc., came to be viewed in terms of this world. This secularization of magical consciousness has several ramifications that are integral to an appreciation of the process of reenchantment as a major aspect of Western modernity.

Perhaps the most important Western cultural movement of the modern period has been the romantic movement. It began somewhere in the second half of the eighteenth century and, depending on what we take as its central characteristics, we can either take a conservative approach and say that it came to a close somewhere in the middle of the nineteenth century, or take a bolder stance and propose that romanticism has remained


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a powerful cultural current since its emergence. In this latter view romanticism was most recently manifested in the countercultural and youth movements of the late 1960s in which the dominant themes were the emancipation of the self from an oppressive society, the return to nature and rejection of industrial society, the primacy of one's feelings, the donning of bohemian appearance, and at the same time the search for a new harmony among human beings. An earlier major renewal of romanticism was the surrealist movement, which was the most broad-based cultural movement of this century, certainly in painting, poetry, and the cinema (from Buñuel to Monty Python), and which had an important political spillover (Gershman 1969; Benjamin 1978). Whatever its specific time frame, romanticism has had a major impact not only in the arts but also in other cultural spheres such as philosophy, religion, and, as Shalin (1986) has cogently argued, sociology itself.

I have suggested that a basic orientation of romanticism in its various forms is a rejection of one major side of modernity: the seemingly cold, drab, impersonal, anonymous, standardized, rationalized, lifeless, technocratic industrial order. But it is more than a rejection; it is also an orientation that seeks and finds, often in the imagination, the creative center of human energy, the potential for altering or conjuring a different order than the industrial one at hand. Romanticism typically places great emphasis on emotions, violence, and mood, the covert and the esoteric in opposition to the overt and exoteric. The properties of space and time—as well as the properties of objects in space and time—may be taken as different from the objective time-space matrix of the scientific-industrial order. Romanticism assumes that the scientific-industrial order can be transformed, perhaps by bringing together the past and the future so as to produce a new present. Of course, these observations are meant to be suggestive traits, and, given the great diversity of manifestations, no specification of this general Weltanschauung is possible in just a few lines. The point I wish to make is that romanticism is one of the most powerful instances of reenchantment as a feature of modernity.

A reflection of this reenchantment is the infusion and profusion throughout the nineteenth century and into the present age of themes of the fantastic, the imaginary, the grotesque, the mythic, and a particular fascination with the demonic and "darkness." Because much of this cultural elaboration was imputed to earlier ages (particularly the medieval period), we have tended to think of premodern Westerners and Western society as riddled with magical consciousness and modern consciousness as emancipated of this mythic, illusory cognitive mapping of reality. However, a brief consideration will suffice to indicate how much the culture of modernity has been stamped by the lure of the magical and enchanting. In classical music, from late Mozart (the operas The Magic Flute, Don


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Giovanni ) through Wagner (Lohengrin, Tristan and Isolde, the Ring cycle) and Mahler (The Youth's Magic Horn ), including the great classics of ballet (Swan Lake, Les Sylphides ), there is a tremendous number of enchanted and magical themes—and even satanic themes (Faust, "Mephistopheles' Waltz")—that provide the human setting for artistic creativity. The same is true in poetry and novels, from Blake and Walter Scott to Lautreamont. In the nineteenth century, side by side with this artistic stimulus of the enchanted, also emerges the study of the fabulous and the enchanted as these have been conceived by "folks" who live on the margin of the industrial urban scene. The collection of folklore and fairy tales, pioneered by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the first half of the century and modernized by William J. Thoms and later by Paul Sebillot, became an important endeavor having a widespread appeal that continues today and had a bearing on the development of cultural anthropology and the study of popular culture (Dorson 1978).

Reenchantment in the form of witchcraft, it may be said in passing, even attaches itself to the very capitalist society that has generated a cultural opposite such as romanticism. I refer here to various aspects of cultural nationalism in nineteenth-century Europe that evoked mythical periods of national identity. But I also draw attention to the instance of socialism, including that of Marx,[5] who used current romantic metaphors not only in the Manifesto 's opening dramatic "A spectre is haunting Europe…. All the Powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise the spectre" but even in the later Grundrisse and in Capital in his discussion of the reification of commodity production: "This enchanted and perverted world…. It is enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world…. The crude materialism of the economists … mystifies social relations" (Bottomore 1983, 411–12). And in recent months the Americans stock market, the center of capitalism and the industrial order, has been subject to a phenomenon known as the "triple witching hour"!

This does not exhaust the theme of reenchantment as a major counterprocess of modernity. Related to, but distinct from, romanticism is another major thread, which I would term exotism . Strictly speaking, if we understand by exotism the appeal or the enchantment of the unfamiliar, perhaps even to the point of seeking to travel to the unfamiliar or to bring the unfamiliar home, exotism has a very long history in the West. It is closely intertwined with many of the myths, legends, and epics of Western culture. However, exotism bears, as Weber (or Goethe before him) might say, and "elective affinity" with Western modernity. Modern


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exotism, beginning with the romantic fascination with "primitive" nature and its indigenous population living in a state of goodness, has had crucial psychological and political functions in the dynamics of change in Western society.

Psychologically, the enchantment of the exotic has had at least two major consequences for the Western mentality. First, it has provided an important compensation for the landscape that has been transformed by the industrial revolution into a vast sea of grays and blacks as a result of the exhaust of industrial fumes. Industrialization brought about an objective "graying" of the West, particularly in the heartland of Northern Europe. One major feature of exotism is the emphasis on bright colors, "colorful" scenes, and "local color." Southern Europe, on the periphery of industrial Europe, was an early favorite setting for depictions of the exotic (as was North America and its Indians). The setting of the exotic rapidly crossed the Mediterranean, so that still early in the nineteenth century. North Africa and the Islamic world became major vehicles of Western exotic depiction. From there the exotic imagination spread to other settings: sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific islands, and the continent of Asia. In particular nineteenth century exotism found "the tropics" (that is, the area between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn) as its locale par excellence. The more industrialization rationalized space and nature in the West, the more exotism provided Westerners with a complementary setting: nature and populations "in the raw."

Second, exotism also provided the Western mentality with an important psychological outlet for an effective life that was becoming increasingly sublimated and inhibited with the advance of "the Victorian ethos": an ethos of sobriety and somber clothing that made public references to bodily functions, particularly sexuality, taboo. Exotic places and their natives, who were seen as living under very different rules of the game (as were the lower social strata, particularly those of a different ethnicity from that of the elites and the new middle classes), became vehicles outside the pale of civilization through which the erotic could be displayed. The linkage of the exotic and the erotic is vividly marked in depictions (paintings, novels, operas) of "native women" whose bare bodies and passionate nature could be vicariously (or otherwise) enjoyed in safety. Another illustration of this linkage is colonial stamps (for example, those issued by the Third Republic right up to World War II), which featured bare-breasted "Black Eves."

Exotism not only had those two psychological functions; it also had economic and political functions. Economically, Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century developed a craving for exotic products that contributed to the information of a consumer society. Baudelaire attracted attention in 1848 by advocating "peppers, English powders and saffrons,


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colonial stuff, exotic asparagus, all that would have pleased them, even musk and incense," and in 1850 Ferdinand Hediard introduced the Parisian middle class to exotic fruits in his Comptoir d'Epice et des Colonies:

Hediard was first to bring tropical fruits and vegetables with strange names, such as guavas, mangoes, loquats and papaws…. Oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits, then a luxury, began to appear on middle-class French tables. The French expansion into Tunisia, the Congo and Indo-china helped Hediard. By 1889, exoticism was all the rage in Paris. (Dorsey 1986)

To bring the exotic to the West is one side of the economic coin; to take Westerners to the exotic is the other. I have in mind here the development of the tourist industry. It began in the nineteenth century, first in the European periphery (Scotland, Spain, Italy, even southern France), and subsequently spread to all parts of the world, particularly those subject to exotic themes that represented the opposite of the locale of the industrial setting, themes such as "colorful natives," "balmy skies," and "unspoiled nature." In the process, "touristization" often involved making a setting conform to the expectations of the exotic by staging events (dances, festivals, even sexual activities) that supposedly typify that setting for the benefit of the tourists. As a result, tourists tend to be shielded from the actual everyday life of the indigenous population.

Equally significant is the political dimension of exotism. The lure and enchantment of exotic lands was instrumental in the exploration and subsequent colonization of overseas territories from early in the nineteenth century right up to World War I. Even after World War I the colonial empires were given important legitimation and justification because of their exotic appeal, which was periodically displayed to Western publics by means of "colonial expositions." Exotic imagery not only emphasized the appeal of strange, foreign, and "colorful" lands and peoples but also, tacitly, emphasized the need for these to be coupled (read annexed, given in perpetual trust, etc.) to Western societies that had acceded to a civilization of progress. Such imagery on occasion suggested the need to seek and rescue "lost" Westerners, such as the mythic Prester John or the not-so-mythic David Livingstone in the case of Africa, and in the course of searching the territory being explored came under the political sphere of influence of the West. Once under Western suzerainty, the exotic aura that overlay the colonies, or more broadly, the non-West, functioned to legitimate Western dominance and to keep "exotic" non-Westerners from being taken seriously. The important study of Said (1978) provides ample documentation of the widespread functions of "orientalism" as a Western categorization and cultural agent of domination


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of the Middle East and Asia. Curtin's earlier study (1964) provides complementary materials on Sub-Saharan Africa.

If, as I contend, reenchantment is a dialectical aspect of Western modernity, are there manifestations of the exotic today after the decolonization of former empires? I would propose that this is indeed the case but that there has been a shift in the locale of the exotic. Instead of foreign parts of the globe inhabited by strange creatures (who are thought to be a mixture of goodness and barbarism), today outer space and extraterrestrial beings are the focus of the exotic. Even as decolonization involved a certain "disenchantment" of the world (in the sense that it stripped away the veils the West had placed on the colonies), reenchantment has been renewed in the popular culture of science fiction, which has commanded a large appeal from the time of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells down to "Star Trek", E.T., and the like. (For a sociological overview of science fiction, see Bainbridge 1986.) As I noted for an earlier wave of exotism, the exotism of outer space not only has psychological and economic functions (for example, generating important objects of consumption in a consumer society) but also may have similar political functions of legitimating enormous expenditures for space exploration, colonization, and military defense (as in the case of the Strategic Defense Initiative, in which the fiction of an impenetrable defense shield has already cost billions of dollars). In any event, modern science fiction illustrates that advancements in science and technology, so much part of the rationalization process, and advancements in the sphere of the imaginary are dialectically related.

Although this does not complete the account of forms of reenchantment in modern society (for example, a more comprehensive treatment would have to look at the economic and political consequences of cultural nostalgia, particularly as the enchantment of the past attaches itself to successive decades), it is time to consider the second major counterprocess of modernity.

2. Dedifferentiation

The discussion of the counterprocess of dedifferentiation is briefer than that of disenchantment, not because of their relative importance but because I have recently dealt at some length with the former (1985b). Because dedifferentiation has been treated residually or negatively, I illustrate the importance of this process through a general consideration of Western modernity.

Obviously the legal-rational authority structures of modernity and its industrial technological order are characterized by a high level of functional differentiation. As an implicit normative standard of modernity,


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this was contained in one of Parsons's "pattern variables," namely "specificity versus diffuseness" (with specificity representing the pole of modernity). By extension dedifferentiation has tended to be viewed as a pathological aspect of social evolution, a regressive process that has as its consequence the undoing of rationalization and differentiation. This, for example, was the tenor of Parsons's discussion of social movements committed to a Gesinnungsethik, movements as diverse as the religious radical movements of the Reformation or the student movements of the 1960s (Tiryakian 1985b).

For a more balanced perspective on the relationship between dedifferentiation and modernity, it is crucial to keep in mind, as Rueschemeyer has emphasized (1986), that any division of labor involves a distribution of power. Ideally, the evolution of the structural differentiation of a social system allows it to have greater adaptation to its environment and increased efficiency as its components work interactively. But social systems do not operate in a power vacuum. Therefore, unless Plato's conception of a meritocracy, as outlined in The Republic, has been implemented in the form of a universal testing system designed to rationally allocate persons to differentiated slots, then the process of differentiation will tend to have an increasing hierarchical character, with more differentiated subunits having less responsibility and less control. This means that unit members at lower echelons will have less identification with and commitment to the goals of the system and greater passivity and apathy may ensue, even if the system's officials resort to Platonic myths and rituals. Thus the process of differentiation can generate pathologies (which Durkheim analyzed in part in The Division of Labor in Society ), and by itself is not the guarantor of integration.

To be sure, a hierarchic, differentiated social system can show growth, integration, and economic efficiency, which might be taken as standards of success. But insofar as major groups of actors are excluded de facto or de jure from responsible action, the system will tend to operate at less than optimal levels of efficiency. Moreover, a change in the environment may provide the social system in question with a challenge that it cannot respond to given its present modes of stratification and differentiation.

Dedifferentiation as a counterprocess involves the restoration of the potentiality of a unit to an earlier phase of development that was characterized by a greater homogeneity of the member units. It is a process of regeneration and rejuvenation of structures; it is also a process by which the member units renew their commitments to and involvement with the system as a whole. This process tends to be more condensed and intense than differentiation.

Rueschemeyer (1986, 141–69) has indicated that several features of dedifferentiation in modern societies are worthy of note: its bundle of


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rights and duties underlying moral individualism, its tension with role fragmentation and routinization, its contribution to the integration of complex institutional patterns, and so forth. The point is not that dedifferentiation is an atavism of modernity but more that it is a necessary complement of differentiation, in part because it provides for the social mobilization of actors. Insofar as the democratic impulse is one major thrust of Western modernity, the quest for the autonomy and the enhancement of life for all the people, within and among societies, will periodically be expressed in forms of dedifferentiation that are dialectically opposed to the tendencies of differentiation.

Historically, I would point to the major social revolutions of the modern period, from the French Revolution to the sexual revolution, as exemplifying dedifferentiation. The same applies to the great nationalist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In these and other instances the actors and groups of actors seeking to emancipate themselves from a differentiated system call on the modern values of egalitarianism, freedom, and autonomy. Because differentiation often rests on the basis of ethnic segmentation, those who wield power in the division of labor are seen as either too alien or too distant. Dedifferentiation involves a dedifferentiation of social roles and social space, whereas differentiation tends to allocate some persons to some roles and to put and keep them in a given confine of social space. This general confinement (which from the perspective of the elites of a differentiated system is a rational allocation of resources) is in acute tension with modern values that stress the freedom of movement and the self-development of human beings (either as individuals or as groups).

3. Conclusion

This chapter discussed modernity in terms of two significant processes that have had a variety of manifestations in the course of Western social change. Reenchantment and dedifferentiation run counter to rationalization as the master process of Western modernity, but they are analytically and empirically necessary to understand modernity "in all its states," to borrow a phrase from Balandier (1985). I argue that modernity must be approached dialectically, not unidimensionally, and that it is necessary to bring the counterprocesses into focus for a more adequate theoretical understanding of the dynamism of modernity.[6]

The consideration of counterprocesses is also necessary for a more


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general interpretation of the modern "human condition" (Parsons 1978). If rationalization, differentiation, and secularization are interrelated features of the dynamics of change, they are not simply features that have provided many of the benefits implicit in the "promise of the Enlightenment," that is, the promise of the general emancipation of the human condition by human praxis. They have also led to new forms of hierarchical control, depersonalization, and the homogenization of the physical and social environment. These features, without a counterbalance, could take modernity into the stasis envisioned by Weber's apt metaphor of "the iron cage," or, even more drastic, that envisioned by Orwell. In fact, however, reenchantment and dedifferentiation, in their diverse manifestations, have served to renew and regenerate the Western societal system, whether by social movements that challenge existing patterns of structural differentiation or by movements of the imagination that challenge the finitude of material reality and have thereby contributed to its ongoing reconstruction.

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